Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mariners Minor League recap for 4/10/09

A: Clinton 6, Burlington Bees 3
CLI: 2-0... BUR: 0-2

Brett Lorin: 6 IP, 3 K, 1 ER (HR), 6 K
Ruben Flores: 1 IP, 2 ER, 2 walks, 2 K, wild pitch, balk
Blake Nation: 1 IP, walk, K
Jose Jimenez: 1 IP, 1 H, K
Maximo Mendez: 3-5, 2 R, 2 K, SB
Terry Serrano: 1-4, R, RBI, K
Denny Almonte: 1-3, double, R, 2 RBI, walk, K, SB
Mario Martinez: 1-3, RBI, walk, K
Juan Fuentes: 1-4, RBI, 2 K

- Key: Clinton blew up Sam Runion (40.2 IP, 7 HR, 9 BB, 11 K in 2008 for Burlington) early, staking a quick 6-0 lead that Brett Lorin and the bullpen held (though Ruben Flores did try to make it interesting).

- Luis Nuñez is okay. He started today at 2nd base. Best guess about why he left Thursday's game early is that he tweaked something and the coaches didn't want to take chances.

- During the two run 1st inning, Maximo Mendez stole home on a one out double steal as Denny Almonte took 2nd. It was the 2nd stolen base of the season for both. Almonte later scored on a Mario Martinez grounder up the middle.

- The first four Lumberking batters in the 2nd reached base with help from their footspeed. Scott Savastano walked, Luis Nuñez beat out a bunt that dribbled near the plate, Maximo Mendez beat out a bunt down the 3rd base line to load the bases and Terry Serrano singled on one of those swinging line drive bunts to cash in Savastano and keep them loaded for Denny Almonte, who doubled over CF Patrick Norris to cash in two more. Even though the Bees didn't allow another hit in the frame, one more Lumberking would come in to score before the rally ended.

- Those six runs made Brett Lorin's night easier. In fact, after back to back hits in the bottom 2nd (one of which was a Nick Francis home run: Francis hit 265/336/425 last year in Burlington), Lorin retired the last 14 batters he faced. He got hit hard a little too often for comfort in these six frames, but he bookended this start with strikeouts: Three of his six K's came in the 1st inning, and the other three came in his final two frames.

Groundballs: 6
Flyballs: 4 (1 HR)
Line Drives: 3
Pop Ups: 1
Walks: 0
Strikeouts: 6

Lorin last season in Wisconsin: 30 IP, 1 HR, 16 BB, 32 K, 4.80 ERA. Walks were a big issue last season so it's a momentary relief to see he walked nobody. Matching his MWL home run total for 2008 in the 2nd inning, however, was not, nor were three line drives and four flyballs in six innings.

A+: High Desert 9, Lancaster 7
Mavs: 2-0... Jethawks: 0-2

Juan Carlos Ramirez: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER (HR), 2 walks, 3 K
Alfredo Venegas: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, walk, K, wild pitch
Steven Richard: 1 IP, 4 H, 4 ER (HR), walk
Anthony Varvaro: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, K, wild pitch
Ian Bladergroen: 2-3, triple, 2 run HR, 2 R, walk
Carlos Peguero: 2-4, double, R, RBI, K
Alex Liddi: 2-4, 2 R
Travis Scott: 1-4, double, R, 2 RBI, K
Joe Dunigan: 1-4, R, RBI, 2 K, SB
Juan Diaz: 1-4, double, RBI

- Key: With the wind blowing left to right at 25 mph, this was the 2009 Mavs' first true introduction to Cal League hell. Any flyball hit to RF had a mind of its own, which was great fun for Lancaster RF Jonathan Gaston in the 1st, who watched two flyballs swerve right past him for extra bases despite his best efforts during the Mavs five run frame. The latter flyball led to a two out, two run double for Travis Scott.

The Mavs added two more in the 2nd as Ian Bladergroen hit a flyball with the wind to right, and you can guess what happened next. The Mavs padded the lead to 9-0 in the 5th. With Alex Liddi on 2nd, Joe Dunigan struck out as Liddi took off for 3rd, but catcher Jason Castro's throw to 3rd met the gusting wind and danced past 3rd base, allowing Liddi to score. Juan Diaz and his pop gun power hit yet another flyball to right, which sailed past Gaston and scored a run.

If STATS Inc did an Ultimate Zone Rating for the Cal League, it would seem awfully unfair given what the wind conditions do to some of these parks. An outfield can take a perfect route to a flyball and still watch it sail 30 feet past him. You can make a perfect infield throw and watch the wind turn it into a knuckleball that dances past your target. You can throw a perfectly located fastball and watch the wind turn it into a wild slider two feet off the plate.

- And yet, somehow, Juan Carlos Ramirez threw six strong innings, not allowing a hit until the 5th inning. The only run, of course, came on a home run that carried with the wind over the RF fence in his 6th and final frame. He didn't mow down a lot of hitters, but he got his pitches in the zone, got the hitters to put the ball in play and got the bullpen deep into the ballgame with minimal damage. He got a ton of groundballs, neutralizing much of the Cal League Effect. This is an encouraging sign that Juan Carlos will do just fine in the Cal League.

Groundballs: 10
Flyballs: 3 (1 "HR")
Line Drives: 0
Pop Ups: 3
Walks: 2
Strikeouts: 3

- Steven Richard got rocked in the 8th by a one out RBI triple against the wind past Carlos Peguero in LF... an RBI single down the middle by old friend Chris Minaker... and a 2 run HR with the wind to RF by Jason Castro, the catcher whose errant throw led to Alex Liddi's run. If not for Brian Pellegrini lining to Richard for an opportune inning-ending double play, the four run 8th could have been a lot worse. Too many flyballs, Mr. Richard. You can't do that in the Cal League and expect to survive.

- Notice that Anthony Varvaro closed this game out. After a rocky, injury plagued 2007 and 2008, it's likely the org sees the 24 year old Varvaro's future in the bullpen. The 2005 12th round pick still has great stuff that misses bats and room to grow, but his control and injury issues probably make a successful career as a starter too much of a stretch.

- Alex Liddi: two games, four hits. Yes, three of the four were singles and it's High Desert, but given the guy couldn't buy a hit in the Midwest League over three seasons, to string together any offense in 2009 could help the young Italian's confidence take a huge step forward.

- 2008 stats for the pitchers:

Juan Carlos Ramirez: 22 GS, 124 IP, 9 HR, 38 BB, 113 K, 4.14 ERA in Wisconsin
Alfredo Venegas: 25 G, 16 GS, 112.1 IP, 12 HR, 32 BB, 87 K, 4.97 ERA in High Desert
Steven Richard: 42 IP, 2 HR, 24 BB, 42 K, 4.50 ERA in High Desert
Anthony Varvaro: 24 GS, 122.2 IP, 22 HR, 82 BB, 113 K, 7.12 ERA in High Desert

AA: West Tennessee's game with Montgomery was suspended due to rain, and play will resume at 6:05 EDT tonight. The DIAMOND JAXX left the game in good shape, leading 7-1 in the 4th. Tonight's scheduled game will only go 7 innings per minor league doubleheader standards.

AAA: Sacramento 5, Tacoma 4
TAC: 1-1... SAC: 1-1

Garrett Olson: 3 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 5 walks, 0 K
Brodie Downs: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 walks, K
Denny Stark: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 walks
Randy Messenger: 1 IP
Prentice Redman: 2-5, R, K
Chris Burke: 2-3, R, 2 walks
Chris Shelton: 1-3, R, 2 RBI, walk, K
Mike Morse: 1-4, 2 RBI, K

- Key: Garrett Olson and Ryan Rowland-Smith were on the same page last night, as Olson opened the ballgame with two walks, two outs and then an inaccurate pickoff throw. Olson eventually walked two more and finished the 1st inning having allowed three runs. The Rainiers tied the game in the top 3rd, keyed on a 2 run Chris Shelton grounder into left... but a Chris Pennington triple off Olson in the 4th eventually produced a go-ahead run. The River Cats tacked on another run in the 7th and never looked back.

The Rainiers did pop in a run in the 8th off a Mike Morse line drive single and had Steve Moss on 3rd with one out. But River Cats manager Tony DiFrancesco played bullpen matchups with two pitching changes, getting Bryan LaHair and Chris Woodward on strikes to end the last threat the Rainiers would pose in this game.

- Danger: Will Robinson! PCL umpire Will Robinson is developing a reputation for wonky strike zones that frustrate pitchers, and last night proved no exception. Both teams combined to issue 15 walks.

Granted, the Rainiers pitchers aren't too helpful themselves. 2008 minor league walk rates (per 9 innings) for last night's Rainier pitchers:

Garrett Olson: 4.2
Brodie Downs: 4.1
Denny Stark: 3.6
Randy Messenger: 3.2

Olson himself had an embarrassing 1st inning, walking four and sending a pickoff throw YIKES AND AWAY. Also keep in mind that Sacramento is an Oakland A's affiliate full of players taught to take pitches. The formula's there to blame the pitching, but we'll keep an eye on Will Robinson's subsequent games behind the plate to see if there's a continuing trend of heavy walks.

- 2008 numbers for the pitchers:

Garett Olson: 26 GS, 132.2 IP, 17 HR, 62 BB, 83 K, 6.65 ERA with the Orioles
Brodie Downs: 94.1 IP, 6 HR, 43 BB, 61 K, 4.10 ERA in West Tenn
Denny Stark: 21 IP, 2 HR, 4 BB, 21 K, 4.29 ERA in Tacoma
Randy Messenger: 22.2 IP, 2 HR, 11 BB, 16 K, 2.38 ERA in Tacoma

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