Yesterday we (Kate and Isabelle) dropped in on a brisk Tacoma Rainiers Media Day (sadly, this one does not come with ballpark food samples, but I spotted something called “R-bachi”—will investigate and report back). We wandered around in the cold and watched the players practice, watched some bullpens and live BP, admired the new improvements at Cheney Stadium, and then retreated to the warmth of the Summit Club for dinner/awkwardly sidling up to players to introduce ourselves.
Updates on the big guys:
- Ben Gamel, Mike Zunino, and Erasmo Ramirez all participated in practice yesterday, under the watchful eyes of Dr. Lorena Martin, who seems to radiate importance.
- Zunino looked about as Good as we could have hoped, taking solid cuts during BP and catching Erasmo’s bullpen and live BP session. The oblique didn’t seem to be bothering him in the slightest, and Rainiers coaches echoed Scott Servais’ recent sentiment that Zunino is likely to rejoin the big league club soon.
Zunino taking BP in Tacoma. Oblique doesn't appear to be too bothersome pic.twitter.com/ihnKHnMPzO— Isabelle Minasian (@95coffeespoons) April 3, 2018
- Gamel also looked good. He took some great swings in BP and looked to be making good contact, depositing a couple balls into the Tacoma parking lot. We didn’t see much from him defensively, and that would be my primary concern at this point - he strained the oblique on his glove side, which could be further exacerbated by any reaching, rangy plays in the outfield. He also didn’t have a Spring Training and the Mariners have outfield options, so a lengthier stay for Gamel in the cozy confines of Cheney seems plausible.
Gamel BP. This ball hit the light tower. pic.twitter.com/tuEiPh6vRM— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) April 3, 2018
- I was pleasantly surprised by Erasmo, largely because my default, whenever a pitcher goes on the DL, is to assume they’ll never been seen or heard from again. But he looked good! He was throwing his fastball, changeup, and cutter in the bullpen, and good grief is that cutter a nice pitch (thank you, Tampa!). He looks to still be building up his pitch count, but it was heartening to see him throwing out on the mound again. Watching him work also allowed us to confirm two important things: 1) Zunino is just as encouraging and effusive with his praise in real life as he is when “Mic’d Up” and 2) Erasmo is as kind and friendly as his jovially cherubic visage would have you believe.
Erasmo throwing to Zunino pic.twitter.com/SDTpL6KdeN— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) April 4, 2018
New at Tacoma this year, Infrastructure Edition:
- S2, which I guess is some kind of second team for the Sounders, now plays at Cheney, meaning there are some weird paint lines on the grass, but manager Pat Listach said he was happy with the condition of the field overall.
- One upshot of S2 at Cheney: No more visitor’s bullpen in play! It was too hard to move two mounds for every game, so finally, visiting pitchers at Cheney will get their own little fenced-off area for warming up instead of having to do so literal inches away from the field of play. There’s also a little railing you can lean on for better heckling of opposing pitchers (off-season railing changes for the better: Rainiers 1, Mariners 0).
- There are some intriguing new food options coming to the park this year. We’ll cover these later in the week in our Guide to Cheney, sort of a mini-version of the Guide to Safeco.
Returning friends and faces:
- #20 Mariners prospect, speedster and LL favorite Ian Miller is back with the Rainiers and has already been pressed into service by Tacoma’s mad scientist of in-game entertainment, Casey Catherwood; look for “Ian-terviews” at inning breaks. (Casey: “do you think he’d wear a cape for one called “Ian-terview with a Vampire?” The answer is probably yes.)
- Nice Guy Tuffy Gosewisch is back to anchor the pitching staff—no, that’s not a typo. Tuffy was the glue that held the Tacoma pitching staff together last year as injuries rocked the big club and Tacoma became a revolving door of pitchers. He worked with everyone from MLB-experienced journeymen pitchers brought in for one last gasp to wide-eyed warm bodies shuttled down from Everett in “break glass in case of pitcher emergency” situations—sometimes within the same game. Tuffy will again provide veteran leadership for a pitching staff that looks to be mostly younger than last year’s. (Love you forever, Jean Machi.)
- Max Povse, Starter, maybe doesn’t count as “returning,” since a sizable chunk of his time in Tacoma was spent in a failed bullpen conversion experiment. He and a demonstrably slimmed-down and happier-looking Rob Whalen will look to build on strong Spring Training campaigns at the front half of Tacoma’s rotation. Christian Bergman, who looked relaxed and not unhappy to find himself in Tacoma again, will provide consistency in the rotation while the big league club figures out their fifth starter situation.
New friends and faces:
- Erik Goeddel (not to be confused with Ashton Goudeau, also a new reliever) threw live BP, and I was pleasantly intrigued by his smooth, over-the-top delivery. Goeddel was signed by the M’s the day after being released from the Rangers - he has major league service time with the Mets as a reliever, but the Rangers stretched him out during Spring Training.
- A handy guide for telling apart Goeddel and Goudeau: Goudeau is 6’6”, meaning if you see a crazy tall guy on the field that’s not Max Povse, it’s him. Goeddel has a curly brown flow that sticks out from the back of his cap. Remember: Goud-oh my gosh he’s tall.
- Garrett Kennedy is perhaps the newest of the new, having just been acquired from the Dodgers org on March 31. He’s an immensely earnest 25-year-old catcher out of University of Miami, with zero AAA experience (and just 37 games at AA last season), but a thoughtful, focused guy who’s been praised for his work behind the plate. He was kind enough to sit down with us for a little while, so a more in-depth piece on him should be coming shortly (hopefully before he’s inevitably pushed back down to AA when David Freitas returns to Tacoma).
- Recently-acquired LHP Darío Álvarez threw live BP. He’s a two-pitch reliever with a low-90s fastball and a nasty slider. Álvarez struggled in Spring Training with the Cubs, surrendering six runs in just over seven innings while walking six, but he also struck out 11. He’ll work with Tacoma pitching coach Lance Painter to see if he can improve his command, in which case he’ll become a valuable depth option.
- New-but-unseen face: Jayson Werth has been assigned to Tacoma, but is still 10-15 days out, per Pat Listach
People watching, athleisure admiring, and other miscellaneous observations:
- Lookout Landing is pleased to award Cameron Perkins the Tacoma Rainiers Media Day Best Dressed Award. In a sea of mom/girlfriend/wife-required button-ups and athleisure (Gordon Beckham, where did you get your hunter green sweat pants with gold-zippered pockets?), Perkins’ dark navy printed button-up, khaki jacket, and tailored pants stood out above the crowd (figuratively and literally- he is not a small man).
- Ben Gamel’s hair up close and in person seems like a living organism, like one of those beautiful but deadly Australian jellyfish. Despite the chill, he had it pulled into a half-up topknot for BP. Other curious sartorial choices seen on the field: wearing one’s Rainiers-branded beanie scrunched up and perched on one’s head like Jughead’s crown (Matt Hague), bright-red high socks (Macaroni-Ravioli-we-like-John-Andreoli), wearing one’s glove as a hat (Cameron Perkins).
- Have you ever been curious about what players spend their signing bonuses on? It’s leather backpacks and headphones. Maybe some new tattoo art in there, too, but primarily leather backpacks and headphones.
- The only person who appears less approachable than Ariel Miranda in the clubhouse is Ariel Miranda eating salad with his headphones on and his hood up.
- Per Brett Gleason, the Rainiers’ Media and Communications Manager, back in 2015 Mike Zunino once hit a ball in BP so hard he broke their center field wall, proving for once and for all Mike Zunino is, and has been, Good.