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8/2 Minor League Wrap-Up

What's funny is that the recap of last night's Rainiers game is going to be news to most of you who were actually there, and I may even learn something too, even though I was sort of paying attention.  It was more like happily distracted attention.

See, we're always happy to meet up and shoot the breeze, and so we got preoccupied with that and barely noticed the actual game.  Suddenly, the Rainiers scored some runs.  Then suddenly, the game was over and the Rainiers had won.  Huh.  I feel a bit sheepish about the facts that a) Dave, Jeff, Tim and Devin were actually paying attention to the game while much of us weren't as much and b) most of the LL crew went the whole game before getting around to talking to Jeff, an exercise in irony if I've ever seen one.

I did see enough of the game to confirm that:

  • Robert Rohrbaugh, aside from looking like a skinny, poor man's RRS, pitched a roughly solid game and got out of jams without appearing to break a sweat.  This was a callup that was firmly deserved.  He's a year older, but he's basically where Feierabend is now as a pitcher.
  • Paul isn't joking: Mike Morse swings a good bat and plays some solid corner defense, and is a much more well-rounded player than he was when he was hastily called up during the 2005 season.  He had a great night last night, one of the best he's had since returning from injury, and I would not be averse to the M's giving him a bench spot as a modular RHB, platooning at 1B or DH, spelling Beltre every few days and just otherwise coming off the bench to be a pain in the ass pinch hitter in later innings.
  • WLAD took some bad hacks, but didn't look especially flawed otherwise.  He played a capable RF.
  • Thanks the horrible traffic, I was late for the pregame festivities by about 20 minutes and had to wait in the general admission line with a couple other USSM readers.  If you guys in question are reading this, don't be put off by my gruff attitude: I was really pissed, because I had checked out my Flexcar and left the U District at 4 thinking I'd easily make it by 5:30, only to run into crawling backups in the U District, Wallingford, SODO (while bypassing the bumper to bumper backup on I-5 Downtown), the 405 intersection, all the way into Kent, again in Des Moines, again once we entered Tacoma, and again when I got on highway 16.  We were anywhere from a dead halt to 25-30 mph tops, with maybe a couple miles out of 45 where we were at full speed.
  • One neat, ironic side effect of this is that I got Kam Mickolio's autograph!  I'm no autograph fiend, but after I passed through the gate... apparently the Rainiers do this thing every so often where they have a random player sit in a chair like a marionette and sign autographs for whoever wants them.  Because these are usually obscure Rainiers, the line consists of one or two random people stumbling up every few moments.  Kam was the guy today and he folded his big frame into the cheap, tall, director-style chair.  I walked up, greeted Big Kam and asked him to autograph my ticket stub and program.  He kindly obliged.  A lot of the vitriol over being late subsided.
  • I thought I missed the chat, but turns out the special guest was some Mariners org grunt named Bill Bavasi, and he did us a great favor by willingly sticking around well after he said he would.  The chat, which was expected to end around the time I showed up, actually carried on well after the PA crew turned on the obnoxious 80's music and people began filing in around us, until about 6:45.  Thanks to Bill Bavasi for taking so much of his time to hang out with us.
  • Also, funny thing: a family had seats near where Bill was perched in the stands talking with us and came up to sit down around 6:30, and they approached Bavasi with an attitude of 'WTF why is this guy in our way?'  Bavasi, to his credit, welcomed them and stepped aside to let them pass before carrying on.  Those people probably had no idea that he's the GM of the Seattle Mariners!
  • Ealier yesterday, I pulled a copy of the latest Seattle Weekly for lunchtime reading material, and one of the articles this week is a piece by Keegan Hamilton about USSM and how their open letter to Felix got to Raffy Chaves and influence Felix's pitch selection.  As with any mainstream article, I figured there were some inaccuracies I didn't catch but whatever.  I kept the copy to give to Dave in case he hadn't caught it yet, and when I mentioned it after the game, he mentioned that the story was, heh, indeed a little less than accurate.  (As always, feel free to clarify or correct the following)  In fact, the story apparently has a Tony LaRussa quote that LaRussa affirms he never said!  Keegan and LaRussa apparently had a hilarious phone argument out of an absurdist play where Keegan tried to confirm the non-quote and LaRussa affirmed, 'What?  I never said that!' and they went on with this impasse-as-discussion for a bit before the conversation came to an abrupt and awkward conclusion.
  • I dunno about the rest of you, but I had fun, and I look forward to catching everyone in Everett tonight.  I'll even be there on time!
Now on to the wrap-up!

VENEZUELA~!  The VSLM's had yesterday off.  They only have two games remaining, and, being 3 games back of the VSL Pirates, they're not winning the VSL, but whatever.  VSL Devil Rays/Reds today, and then they finish the VSL season tomorrow, as the road squad, against the VSL Tigers.

Dominican:  The DSLM's also had yesterday off.  They face the DSL Phillies (32-17) shortly.

Arizona:  Angels 5, Mariners 0
AZLM's:  4-2... AZLHalos:  3-3

SEAN WHITE:  3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 K
Richard Ortiz:  4 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 walks, 2 K, 2 wild pitches, hit batter
Stephen Bills:  1 IP, 2 H, hit batter
AZLM's lineup:  4-29, walk, 8 K

Sean White begins his long road back from Acute Rule 5 Suckitis, struggling in 3 innings against 18-20 year old kids that couldn't hit Ho Ramirez.  Uh huh.

Meanwhile, the AZLM's got 4 hit by a tandem of 4 inning efforts from Mason Tobin (an Everett native!) and Trevor Recking, which is a neat baseball name if I've ever seen one.  Both are having good rookie ball seasons and have a future living up to the Angels organization expectation of being undisciplined no talent pains in the ass who somehow succeed anyway.

a:  Everett 7, Vancouver 5
EVE:  18-25... VAN:  20-22

Robert Harmon:  5 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 3 walks, 6 K, wld pitch, 2 hit batters
Philip Roy:  3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 walks, 4 K
Nick Hill:  1 IP, 2 K
Greg Halman:  2-4, double, walk (.340/.420/.617)
Craig Hurba:  1-2, 2 run HR, 2 R, 2 walks
Jermaine Brock:  pinch ran for Hurba, SB, later had a 2 RBI single (.208/.282/.236)
Jeff Dunbar:  0-2, sac fly RBI, walk (.190/.298/.310)
Deybis Benitez:  1-3, R, RBI, walk (.148/.272/.170)

So... we get to see these clowns tonight.  HEY, but they won last night, with 2 runs in the top 9th.  Robert Harmon had one of his better outings, with 2 big innings being his key blemishes: 2 runs allowed in the 1st and 2 in the 4th.  It's pretty sad when you're calling a 4 run outing over 5 innings a good outing, but with Robert Harmon, you're taking what you can get.

Despite that, the Aquasox got a 2 run HR from Craig Hurba, of all people, in the 2nd and scored 3 runs in the 4th after a botched effort fielding a sac bunt by Vancouver pitcher Leonardo Martinez with two on, a sac fly from Jeff Dunbar, and Beef Roids sauteeing some Deca before STEALING HOME on a double steal with Joe Dunigan.  Deybis Benitez also took some time out from making outs to line a single and cash in Dunigan.

So Harmon left with a 5-4 lead, but Philip Roy, after a good 6th, did what he does best: he choked up a run on a two out single and two out double to tie the ballgame.  Philip got out and pitched a scoreless 8th, so that's still an improvement over his usual outings.

Leonardo Espinel came in to pitch the top 9th for Vancouver, and Everett took advantage of two unlikely events: a leadoff walk to Deybis Benitez and Ogui Diaz's grounder getting muffed by 3B Walter Correa.  Edilio Colina bunted them over for one out, and Espinal intentionally walked Greg Halman for obvious reasons to face Manelik Pimentel... who struck out.  Yeah.  Two outs.

But Jermaine Brock lined a single to left and cashed in Benitez and Diaz to give the Aquasox the 7-5 lead.  Military man Nick Hill came in for the bottom 9th and put the Canadians down in order to end it, eh.

So, tonight... they kick off a 5 game series with Tri City, odd because the first Aquasox game I ever saw was the start of a 5 game series with Tri City.  If the rotation goes according to schedule, Doug Salinas should get the start.  The 18 year old Venezuelan (yes, he's in a pro rotation and he's only 18!) has struggled with an ERA near 6 despite striking out about a batter per inning, thanks in part to a high walk rate (4.2 per 9) and an astounding BABIP (.388).  His line drive rate is about average, and he's getting groundballs at a nice clip (53% GB rate).  Don't look at the kid's basic stats and deduce that he's sucked, because aside from spotty command, he really hasn't.

The RHP has some strange splits, allowing all 3 of his HRs so far to lefthanded bats and striking out more of them per 9 than RHBs (K/9 of LHBs:  11.1... K/9 of RHBs:  7.2).  He actually struggles vs RHBs (954 OPS) while having great success vs LHBs (673 OPS).

When some of you were bellyaching about having to see the scrubs of A- ball, you weren't kidding.  Aside from spots like last night where the team strings together rallies, this team's lineup really struggles.  Greg Halman has been a manbeast in Everett, but aside from him there not only isn't much to crow about, but the bats have really struggled.  Matt Mangini is out nursing an injured back and may not be back with Everett at all (he'll be back with a higher squad).  And he was the only patient bat in the lineup: everyone else is a hacker that can't take a walk, great for beer league softball, bad for pro baseball.  Aside from Halman, the only regular with an OPS over 750 is Manelik Pimentel (264/328/436).  Edilio Colina is back from injury looking to continue a hot start but has been generally lukewarm (266/309/406).  Catcher Craig Hurba has had some moments off the bench, but he's in Everett for a reason and this is the 3rd team he's played for this year.  Wellington Dotel aka Beef Roids is showing flashes after a slow start, but is another speedy hacker with doubles power.  Kalian Sams' numbers have fallen off the planet (177/275/283).  Highly touted kid Deybis Benitez has had a horrible time getting accustomed to pro ball (148/272/170).  Greg Halman is the only Aquasox player most of you recognize for a reason.

Tri City (18-25), the Rockies short season A ball affiliate, is with Everett at the bottom of the NWL in team OPS (678, 2nd to last to Everett's 661) and this game should be an interesting battle if only due to the relative futility.  The pitching staff has issued the fewest walks in the NWL (106) so expect Aquasox at-bats to go quickly.

Best guess on the Dustdevils' SP is 21 year old Bruce Billings out of San Diego State.  He has dominated, with 48 Ks in 38.2 IP against only 5 walks.  Granted, he's given up 4 HRs, but most of his damage came in two 5 run starts, one on June 3rd vs... Everett!... and his last start on July 28th against Yakima.  I expect to see Billings ringing Aquasox up in bunches, but given the relative futility of the Dustdevils lineup, I hope to see Salinas keep up and show us what he can do.

Gonzaga product Darin Holcomb (3B) is their best bat (292/393/552) with SS Everth Cabrera not far behind (300/432/413).  Both know how to work a count and take a walk, and Everth has 12 stolen bases and 3 triples in 150 ABs this year.  The only other solid bat is outfielder Maruis Loupadiere (241/275/448) and he's a hacker.  Michael Mitchell can swipe bases (15 SBs)... when he gets on (260/352/276).  With 31 singles and only one extra base hit, expect no pop.  INF Helder Velasquez has 12 doubles but isn't a consistent threat and doesn't draw walks (260/271/347).

Basically, if you had two teams of Willie Bloomquists, you've have a game of short season A ball.  It'll be fun!

A:  Dayton 2, Wisconsin 1
WIS:  12-26... DAY:  21-18

Ricky Orta:  5 IP, 1 H, 3 walks, 7 K
Michael Wagner:  1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 K
Keith Renaud:  1 IP, K
Steven Richard:  1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 walks, 2 K
Leury Bonilla:  2-3, double (.256/.283/.350)
Ronald Garth:  1-3, solo HR, walk (.215/.282/.308)
rest of T-Rats lineup:  2-21, 5 walks, 6 K

Ricky Orta has found his groove, shutting out the Dragons over 5 innings to leave with a 1-0 lead.  The only problem... believe it or not, for all his ups and downs, this was the first time in the MWL this season that Michael Wagner has blown a lead.  Wagner allowed a triple to the first batter he faced in the 6th and while he got an opportune groundout to 3rd, a Juan Francisco single cashed in the run.  But despite a Francisco stolen base, Wagner got out of the inning with further damage.

The T-Rats got a leadoff walk from Gavin Dickey in the top 8th and he stole 2nd soon thereafter, then Leury Bonilla bunted him to 3rd for one out.  But Kuo Hui Lo struck out and Reed Eastley struck out and no run was scored.

Steven Richard, supplanted from his starting role by the promoted Nolan Gallagher, the Lost Oasis Brother, came on in relief and withstood a two out double from Juan Francisco to avoid further runs in the bottom 8th.  No T-Rats got on in the top 9th, but after Richard struck out the first batter in the bottom 9th, he allowed two consecutive walks, then pinch hitter Keltavious Jones used the awesome powers of his first name to double home the winning run.

A+:  High Desert 9, San Jose 7
Mavs:  12-29... Little Giants:  23-18

Chris Tillman:  6 IP, 4 H, (2 R) 0 ER, walk, 6 K
Roman Martinez:  1.1 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, walk, K
Jose Escalona:  no outs recorded, 3 H, (3 R) 2 ER (2 HR), walk
Nick Allen:  two outs, walk, vultured win
Aaron Jensen:  1 IP, walk
Michael Saunders:  1-4, double, 2 RBI, K (.302/.398/.485)
Jesus Guzman:  1-4, double, R, RBI, K (.289/.359/.510)
Jeff Frazier:  3-4, double, 2 run HR, 3 RBI (.372/.423/.599)
Eddy Hernandez:  1-4, double, R, K (.195/.266/.327)
Jeff Dominguez:  1-4, 2 run HR, 3 R (.269/.321/.374)

The Mavs staked a quick 7-0 lead after 4 for Chris Tillman, who utilized some Dave Cameron On The West Coast Karma to pitch one of the best starts of his High Desert career, his only runs over 6 innings being unearned before leaving with a 7-2 lead.

The only problem is that Roman Martinez, Jose Escalona and Nick Allen imploded, especially Escalona with allowing two baserunners to get on and two others to take him deep, allowing the Little Giants to tie the game with a 5 run 8th.  Fortunately, the team rallied and got two runs in the bottom half to retake the lead, which Aaron Jensen held in the 9th for his 2nd save of the season.

AA:  The West Tenn DIAMOND JAXX had yesterday off.  They're in Carolina to start a 5 game series today against the Mudcats.

AAA:  Tacoma 7, Memphis 0
TAC:  50-63... MEM:  47-66

Robert Rohrbaugh:  CG shutout, 9 H, walk, 4 K
Nick Green:  1-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, walk (.314/.355/.616)
Jeremy Reed:  3-5, 2 R, RBI, SB (.292/.346/.435)
Mike Morse:  4-5, 2 doubles, 3 RBI (.320/.385/.477)
Bryan LaHair:  2-5, double, RBI, K (.270/.319/.407)
WLAD:  0-3, R, walk, K (.305/.377/.557)

Yeah, I think I heard about this one ;P

Rohrbaugh pitched what I like to call a Bouton Special, a CG shutout despite 10 or more baserunners.  In Rohrbaugh's case, he had 10 on the dot, and even as Kam Mickolio warmed up in the 8th, Daren Brown promptly sent Rohrbaugh back out there to finish, and indeed he did.

Much of what I have to say about this game as a spectator I said above, and ironically, others may have more to say about the on-field action than I do.  The Rainiers quietly tacked on a run in the 1st, Robert Rohrbaugh held a 1-0 lead intact until the Rainiers blasted off for 5 runs in the 6th to put this game away, and Rohrbaugh finished.

Bryan LaHair hit his requisite laser to the wall, I got a chance to scream FREE NICK GREEN after his run scoring single, and Mike Morse had a monster day, as if he knew we were watching or something.  Sebastien Boucher is now the everyday CF with Jones in the bigs, and he looked like he belonged out there, save for an error in the middle innings that I missed.