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Archive for the ‘Spring Training’ Category

Probables, Injury Updates and Asdrubal Cabrera

Posted by JasonAChurchill on March 11, 2006

Cabrera impresses in field and at plate

Cabrera’s Bat is the Only Question Mark (Rattlers.com)

Looks like RHP Gil Meche will start a “B” game on Monday versus Texas in Surprise, as long as all goes well on Sunday with his oblique.

RHP Felix Hernandez will start today versus Texas, at PSC and LHP Jamie Moyer will go Monday versus LAA. Both starters are expected to go four innings or land in the 50-55 pitch range.

LHP’s Jared Thomas and Jason Mackintosh, and RHP Cibney Bello were in uniform for the game Saturday against Arizona. None fo the three entered the contest, however.

LHP Cesar Jimenez is still limited to bullpen sessions with a mild strain of his left hamstring. He’s expected to continue throwing in the pen until at least Tuesday. He could pitch in a game on Wednesday.

LHP Bobby Livingston continues to recover from a stiff neck suffered earlier in the week. He’s likely to pitch next weekend, probably in a “B” game. No truth to the rumor that Bobby hurt himself on Monday night as he continuously whipped his head around to check out the passing babes at the local bar. Well, maybe there is some truth to that.

2B Fernando Vina’s return was set for Sunday, but the veteran infielder is probably going to be held out until next Friday while he recovers from a hip flexor.

It’s time for Vina to hang it up. He has no chance whatsoever to make the big club…

SS Asdrubal Cabrera is opening eyes, however. He hit his first spring home run on Saturday and, as always, shined in the field impressing everyone from manager Mike Hargrove to Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt was overheard saying the spanish equivalent of “wow” after a play Cabrera made early in the contest versus Arizona.

Cabrera began the spring looking like he’d open the year as San Antonio’s starting shortstop, but he may be playing his way into a return to Triple-A Tacoma where he ended his 2005 campaign.

RHP Clint Nageotte’s pulled left hamstring is worse than originally diagnosed and the 25-year-old is taking it day-by-day. He’s throwing but not pitching and isn’t expected to do so until late next week.

The M’s have 11 hitters with a .300 average or better heading into Saturday’s action. Richie Sexson and Roberto Petagine are both 7-for-18 for a .538 average while Raul Ibanez (7-for-16, .438) and Shin-soo Choo (7-for-17, .412) are above the .400 mark. Matt Lawton (5-for-13, .385), T.J. Bohn (5-for-14, .357), Jeremy Reed (5-for-14, .357), Yuniesky Betancourt (5-for-15, .333), Mike Morse (4-for-12, .333), Willie Bloomquist (6-for-19, .316), and Matt Tuiasosopo (3-for-10, .300) round out the elite 11.

Bloomquist is day-to-day after receiving three stitches on his right pinkie finger after injuring the digit in the weight room on Thursday afternoon.

Not sure why Willie feels the need to stack on more plates…

Saturday was the first full-squad workouts for minor leaguers and the feeling has already set in for many. “Tedious, boring, yet necessary,” was the typical response to day one workouts.

One M’s minor league left-hander, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims, “I just get sick and tired of throwing perfect games against my own teammates. I don’t want them to hate me and they aren’t getting good batting practice that way, so, get on with it already.”

Posted in M's Top Prospects, Seattle Mariners, Spring Training | 3 Comments »

Joel Pineiro and Adrian Beltre Change My Mind, Sorta

Posted by JasonAChurchill on March 10, 2006

Joel Pineiro LookingFor Comeback Season
Many are liking what they saw out of Joel Pineiro this week as he tossed four innings allowing just one unearned run in the World Baseball Cup and even though I also thought he looked decent, I’m not going to get too excited, and neither should you.

Pineiro, even at his very best right now, is a No. 4 starter with occasional No. 3 ability. He’s not very good, nor should he ever be expected to be a frontline arm ever again. As David Cameron discusses Here at USSMariner, Pineiro is better than Meche in almost every way possible, but all that means that Pineiro is useful and Meche is not, which is among Cameron’s points.

At 27, Pineiro can still improve in some aspects, especially in the area of command and consistency. But he’s not going to re-discover a 95-mph fastball and the stamina and durbaility he displayed a few years ago when he looked like a No. 2 starter at the age of 24.

Think of Pineiro as the M’s version of Houston’s Brandon Backe.

With true TOR’s Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt in front of him, if Backe went six or seven decent innings, his club had a good chance to win, and because of the first three in the rotation, Backe didn’t feel any pressure to go eight scoreless every time out.

Pineiro’s six-plus inning outings are a bonus. It will likely mean that he surrendered somewhere between zero and four runs and threw a reasonable amount of pitches. Those efforts will give the Mariners a chance to win more ballgames than the right-hander’s typical 2005 starts did.

Pineiro’s start versus the Netherlands in game 2 of Puerto Rico’s World Cup schedule was a nice outing. He displayed solid control with his fastball, threw his curveball with confidence and even moved his pitches in and out, seemingly at will.

It was a solid first outing for any spring pitcher against any lineup… but oh, that lineup. The Netherlands have one big league bat in Andruw Jones, former major leaguers in Randall Simon and Eugene Kingsale and a group of AA equivalents – which is basically what he would have faced if he were back in the desert pitching for the M’s right now in the Cactus League.

So treat his WBC outing versus the Netherlands like he just went four innings versus the Milwaukee Brewers “B” squad.

His performance shouldn’t be taken as some sort of sign that he’s back, because he’s not, and never will be.

Like Backe, Pineiro is capable of getting things together to produce quality starts on a regular basis. He’ll appear to be a pretty good pitcher at times, and then turn around and look like Gil Meche. But he’s a capable No. 4 starter who could get the M’s 200 innings. Backe rides the fence of 200 innings, depending on how much he’s needed.

Some out there are saying, “Brandon Backe? He’s terrible, Pineiro is better than that!” If you are one of those, you’re wrong.

Backe’s 2005 FIP was 4.76 while Pineiro’s was 4.50. FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, isn’t perfect, but those numbers suggest that Backe was .26 runs per nine innings worse than Pineiro, when fielding is removed from the equation. This in a hitter’s park versus Pineiro’s performances at the pitcher’s haven that is Safeco Field that surrendered 25% less runs, and homers, as did the Juice Box.

So basically, they are the same pitcher when it comes to runs allowed.

Be happy if Pineiro dips down to the low to mid-4’s in ERA, or perhaps better if he’s lucky. He’s actually useful with an ERA in that area, but unlike Backe, it won’t earn him and his teammates a trip to the World Series.

Why?

Because Jarrod Washburn, Jamie Moyer and Gil Meche do not equal three hall of fame talents that the ‘Stros had leading their staff a year ago.

Best case scenario — Pineiro’s command is back to where it was three years ago and he gives the M’s 200 innings and a low 4 ERA behind his improved K/BB rates and a K/9 rate that could get back into the mid-6’s.

Worst case scenario — Pineiro gets hurt early and because Nageotte and Foppert aren’t ready, the M’s call up Emiliano Fruto to the bullpen and Matt Thornton and Julio Mateo share the fifth spot for half the year. Put Pineiro down for a much better season than 2005, but don’t expect him to earn any more respect than a 4th starter should. That’s what he is, after all.

Beltre’s circumstances are different, to me, in that I actually believe that the adjustment’s he has made could bring a result closer to his 2004 numbers than some believed he was capable. No, he’s not likely to hit 40+ homers or even approach a .334 batting average. But get this…Beltre came to camp at 214 pounds, 12 pounds lighter than a year ago, a sign of hard work, desire and dedication. Good news there. He never made any excuses a year ago and only mentioned his lack of getting the job done. Another good sign.

The best news in Marinerland all spring is that Beltre has his confidence soaring right now. That’s not something you could say at any point thus far in his short M’s career. He struggled last spring, and never got things going during the season.With the Dominican team, he’s batting fifth for the most part, and has crushed three home runs in two games. Something he did just once last season with Seattle. What’s different? Beltre has altered his stance a bit, which is minor, but he’s also changed the action in his wrists and feet, which lead to him staying back on the ball and not lunging his upper body over the top of his lower body – movements that will drain power and induce strikeouts, pop ups and weak grounders.

Last year, Beltre tried desperately to hit the ball to righ field. In two games with DR, he’s driving the ball where it’s being pitched. If it’s middle-in, he’s pulling it. If it’s away, he’s shooting it into right and right-center.If you are looking for something to really get excited about in March, be excited that Adrian Beltre, who won’t be 27 until the first week of April, is dedicated to being a better hitter than he was in 2005 – and the adjustments that he and Jeff Pentland worked on really early in camp are paying off already.

Pencil Beltre in for 30 homers.

After not liking the timing of the WBC and still not watching it with any excitement, the cup may be providing both Pineiro and Beltre with a BETTER place to fix their games. Pineiro will get more innings and Beltre will get more ABs than either would have in Peoria at this stage of spring training.

Posted in Seattle Mariners, Spring Training | 14 Comments »

Spring Training Update: 3.07

Posted by JasonAChurchill on March 7, 2006

Some updated info from Peoria…

Injury ReportClint Nageotte has strained his left hamstring and will not pitch Wednesday… Fernando Vina took some infield today to test out his hip flexor… Cesar Jimenez’s bullpen session went fine and he should return to live action by Thursday… Both Gil Meche (oblique) and Bobby Livingston (stiff neck) played catch today. Livingston may make a start as early as Thursday or Friday… Chris Snelling will take batting practice on Wednesday to test his surgically repaired knee.

Probables – Sean Green takes Nageotte’s spot in Wednesday’s split-squad game versus Team Japan. Left-hander Luis Gonzalez will start ahead of right-handers Green, Emiliano Fruto and Dave Burba.
In the other game on Wednesday, LHP Jamie Moyer will start followed by RHP J.J. Putz, RHP Jeff Harris and LHP Travis Blackley against the San Francisco Giants.

On Thursday at Tucson Electric Park against the Chicago White Sox, RHP Jesse Foppert gets his second start and will be followed by RHP’s Scott Atchison, Yorman Bazardo and Renee Cortez.

Seattle’s .368 team natting average remains the top mark in either spring league and their 12.86 ERA (50 earned runs in 35 innings) is still the worst in the bigs during spring play.

Note of the Day: The Seattle Mariners have 60 players in camp and the total number on the spring roster is 63 after three players departed for their World Baseball Cup teams (Ichiro, Joel Pineiro and Adrian Beltre). But only 26 of the 63 were in camp with Seattle a year ago and only 22 made a big-league appearance in 2005.

Another Note: M’s analyst Ron Fairly collected his third career Hole-in-One earlier this winter on the third hole at Desert Horizon. It’s the second straight year he’s aced the 185-yard, third hole at the same course. Bith times Fairly used a five-iron.

Minor Stuff: Minor league pitchers and catchers begin workouts today with the first full-squad workouts starting on Saturday morning.

Posted in M's Top Prospects, Seattle Mariners, Spring Training | Leave a Comment »

Finishing Touches on Prospect Reports; Thoughts on Spring Training

Posted by JasonAChurchill on March 6, 2006

Ian Levin and I will be putting the finishing touches on InsideThePark.com’s 2006 Prospect Report with a quick Top 100 MLB Prospects countdown and then a look at the organizations in ranking order, 1-30.

We hope to get this done by the end of the week, so you could see the first set of 30 (30, 30, 30, 10) at some point before the weekend.

We all know wins and losses mean nothing during the Cactus League schedule, right?

I’m changing my mind.

Not that I’m freaking out over the M’s losing the first few games of ST, albeit very badly, but this club has to change the way they go about doing their business on the field.

They need to pick up their share of quality wins this spring, preferably later in the schedule when the games feature squads made up mostly of the regulars.

It’s obviously more important that they stay healthy and get their work in, but that will either happen or not, whether they win or lose.

They need to win some games and put together a three or four game win-streak, breeding confidence and some added comradery. Countless losses, and lopsided at that, are never good for the psychie of the club, regardless of when they occur.

Expect the front office to be very impatient early this season when it comes to making trades, call-ups and even with the trigger finger on Hargrove’s job. A slow start to the regular season may just mean Grover’s job. And as I have said before, don’t expect Ron Hassey, the current bench coach, to take over, even on an interim basis.

For two reasons, Hassey won’t get the gig.

1) Hassey is very loyal to Hargrove and though Hargrove would probably advise him to take it for the opportunity and the experience, Hassey will refuse it and look elsewhere – or keep his bench coach job til the end of the year.

2) The Mariners, and particularly Benny Looper, Lee Pelekoudas and to an extent Bill Bavasi, favor other in-house candidates such as Dan Rohn.

Who Bats Third?

Ideally, Adrian Beltre will go out and hit .300 with 35 homers and 120 RBI and become the pain in the neck to pitchers all over the AL that he was in LA in 2004. But that’s more a dream than anything and if Beltre goes for 280 and 25 homers, most would be happy. Raul Ibanez is probably going to get the call here, but I propose that Sexson and Ibanez switch spots.

Spring Probables

After Matt Thornton’s emergency start today for Bobby Livingston, Felix Hernandez gets the call tomorrow with RHP’s Rafael Soriano, Julio Mateo and Marcos Carvajal scheduled to get work also.

Also today: LHP George Sherrill, RHP Kevin Appierand LHP Jake Woods will see action on the mound.

On Wednesday, Jamie Moyer will start versus San Francisco with RHP Jeff Harris, RHP J.J. Putz and southpaw Travis Blackley slated to get work as well.

The M’s are split squad Wednesday with the second team taking on Team Japan. Right-hander Clint Nageotte will start that game with LHP Luis Gonzalez,RHP Dave Burba and RHP Emiliano Fruto set to get some work.

Heading into Monday’s action, the M’s led the cactus league with a .356 average (42-118). Eleven hitters are batting over .300… … but the team pitching staff is last in the league at 14.88. That’s 43 earned runs in 26 innings. The M’s have walked 17 and struck out just 13.

Injury Report2B Fernando Vina remains sidelined with a strained hip flexor. The clb is hoping he can get into a few games late this week… Even though Livingston is listed as today’s starter (Matt THornton was expected to take his place), he’s also expected to miss a day or two with stiff neck. Knowing Bobby, he probably sprained it looking at the hot Phoenix chicks as they drove by in their flashy cars… OF Wladimir Balentien is participating in workouts but his strained right hamstring will keep him out of games for the time being… Chris Snelling’s recovery is still ahead of schedule, but he will not be allowed to run much and is being limited to half sessions of BP and very little defensive drill action… LHP Cesar Jimenez has a mild hamstring strain, but came into today expecting to throw a bullpen session.

Posted in Seattle Mariners, Spring Training | 6 Comments »

Jesse Foppert Report

Posted by JasonAChurchill on March 4, 2006

Reports out of spring training on Foppert’s outing today weren’t bad, considering he ended last season with mediocre, Ryan Franklin-like velocity.

The 6-foot-6 right-hander touched 92 on the gun a few times today against the Padres, and sat 90+ in his two innings. Normally this wouldn’t anything to be happy about, but it’s March 4, he didn’t have bad command and it was Foppert’s first live action of the spring.

His first live action a year ago resulted in two walks, a wild pitch and two hits allowed in his first inning – not to mention he didn’t touch 88 on the gun.

The radar gun is often an overrated tool when evaluating pitchers, but in this case it’s very necessary. Tommy John patients usually regain most or all of their velocity and when it begins showing up, that’s about the time they start looking like the pitcher they were prior to surgery.

It was common for Foppert to use his fastball in the 93-96 range pre-surgery and if he can get back near that range, and still be capable of throwing his sharp slider and splitter, he’s the favorite to supplant Meche in the rotation at some point in the year.

Even ahead of Nageotte.

Foppert threw a decent splitter today but threw very few pitches other than his fastball.

Footnote:

Word is that Jose Lopez is playing like a madman. More hustle in workouts and a more focused. That came from a fellow player.

Posted in Spring Training | 3 Comments »