Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mariners Minor League Wrap-Up for May 12 (with a bonus column)

A: Beloit 3, Clinton 2
CLI: 18-12... BEL: 12-18

Kenn Kasparek: 5.2 IP, 4 H, (3 R) 1 ER, 2 walks, 4 K, hit batter
Bobby LaFromboise: 1 IP, 1 H, walk
Blake Nation: 2.1 IP, 3 H, walk, 4 K
Maximo Mendez: 1-3, triple, R, K
Nate Tenbrink: 2-3, double, triple, RBI, walk, K
Mario Martinez: 2-4, solo HR, 2 K

Both teams finished their scoring by the 2nd inning. The Lumberkings tied the game at 1 in the 1st with TWO triples, one a leadoff triple from Maximo Mendez (his 5th!) and another an RBI triple by Nate Tenbrink (his 3rd!). Beloit themselves got a run from a triple in the 2nd by Adam Severino (206/286/302) and another on a sac fly, but Mario Martinez went deep in the bottom 2nd to make it 3-2.

And that was it. Both pitching staffs put the clamps down and gave each side too little to work with to score again. Kenn Kasparek settled down after the first two rocky frames and worked into the 6th inning.

Groundballs: 10
Flyballs: 5
Line Drives: 1
Pop Ups: 2
Walks: 2 (plus 1 bunt)
Strikeouts: 4

A+: High Desert 6, Rancho Cucamonga 4
Mavs: 22-10... Quakes: 12-20

Juan Carlos Ramirez: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 walks, K
Michael Pineda: 2 IP, 1 H
Travis Mortimore: 1 IP, 1 H
Phillippe Aumont: 1 IP, K
Jamie McOwen: 1-4, R, RBI, 2 K
Edilio Colina: 2-4, R
Alex Liddi: 1-5, 2 RBI, SB
Kuo Hui Lo: 1-4, double, R, SB
Carlos Peguero: 1-4, triple, R, 2 K, SB
Ian Bladergroen: 1-3, R, 2 RBI, walk
Wind: 12 mph out to RF

I almost put off recapping this game until tomorrow due to the late finish: I'm now working a job that requires me to get up very early. But I ended up spending so long on the other games below that this game did in fact conclude and now you get a full recap. Be advised in the future that since the Mavs play so late into the night, some games may not get a proper recap until the following day.

Juan Carlos Ramirez did not have one of his better starts in general, and the Quakes finally got to him in the 3rd and 4th innings, taking a 4-3 lead before he left after the minimum:

Groundballs: 9 (plus 1 bunt)
Flyballs: 5
Line Drives: 4
Pop Ups: 1
Walks: 3
Strikeouts: 1

His reliever deserves note: Michael Pineda made his triumphant return:

6th: Groundout, lined single, flyout, groundout
7th: Groundout, flyout, groundout

Looks like he'll be back to owning Cal League lineups in no time.

The Mavs took advantage of some crappy Quakes defense and an Alex Liddi 2 run single in the 7th to cash in three runs and give themselves the 6-4 lead. Travis Mortimore then defied character and netted three groundouts in a scoreless 8th before Phillippe Aumont worked a perfect 9th for his 6th save. Hey, maybe call THAT guy up to help the Mariners bullpen :P

AA: West Tenn 1, Tennessee 0
WTN: 12-17... TEN: 14-14

Kyle Parker: 7 IP, 3 H, 3 walks, 3 K, hit batter (83 pitches, 49 strikes)
Mumba Rivera: 2 IP, 2 walks, K (30-18)
Johan Limonta: 2-3, double, walk
Jeff Dominguez: 1-4, RBI, K
rest of DIAMOND JAXX lineup: 3-25, 3 walks, 6 K

With the temp around 68 degrees at game time, maybe it got a bit cool in central Tennessee and helped keep the score low. Neither starting pitcher did a particularly impressive job of corraling the opposing lineup. Kyle Parker in particular had trouble throwing strikes (as usual) but managed what had to be his best start of the season line-wise. As for balls in play, he certainly got a share of groundballs but otherwise didn't look at all dominant.

Groundballs: 9 (plus 1 bunt)
Flyballs: 7
Line Drives: 2
Pop Ups: 1
Walks: 3 (plus 1 hit batter)
Strikeouts: 3

Jonathan Papelbon's brother choked yet again, as Jeremy Papelbon gave up the only run of the game in the 9th to a soft one out liner up the middle from Jeff Dominguez that cashed in Matt Mangini.

One other line of note: Starting at SS for the DIAMOND JAXX today was Leury Bonilla, who made his 2009 debut yesterday, going 0 for 6. After a fitful 2008 stint in High Desert, the org has decided to push the 24 year old Leury to AA, though his bat isn't quite ready for the level yet and may never be. Leury may also be playing to spell Oswaldo Navarro, who may be day to day with some sort of injury as he hasn't played since May 8, at SS, as Leury is a utility guy with decent range. That said, believe it or not Leury's debut at SS yesterday was his first action at SS since 2007 with Wisconsin. In High Desert last year, Leury played 1B, 2B, 3B, LF, RF and even pitched in one game, but never took the field at SS. His middle infield range is meh but the real reason he didn't play there was because the Mavs had Carlos Triunfel there, plus Ogui Diaz behind him.

The only other option for SS is 1B/3B Ronnie Prettyman, who is really out of position at SS, and Jeff Dominguez, who was permaslotted at 2B to get his terrible range off of SS (the M's haven't punted him because he's 22, has been playing since 2004 and there's some hope he could be a useful utility guy someday).

AAA: Tacoma 9, New Orleans 7
TAC: 17-15... NOR: 12-20

Doug FISTER: 4 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 3 K (81-58)
Steven Shell: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER (HR), 2 K (28-21)
Justin Thomas: 2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 walks (36-20)
Randy Messenger: 1 IP (16-12)
Prentice Redman: 2-6, 2 doubles, R, K
Jeff Clement: 3-5, double, 2 run HR, K
Chris Shelton: 1-3, 2 R, sac fly RBI, walk
Mike Morse: 2-4, 2 run HR, 2 R
Bryan LaHair: 3-5, solo HR, solo HR, K
Guillermo Quiroz: 2-5, double, 2 RBI

Doogie FISTER M.D. had a rocky 1st start thanks to some misfortune: Four groundballs got through for hits in the 2nd. Two more got through in the 4th and a wild pitch plus a 2 run triple by Cameron Maybin indicated FISTER was starting to lose control, but he got two strikeouts after that to escape and he called it a day after 81 pitches.

Groundballs: 11
Flyballs: 6
Line Drives: 1
Walks: 0
Strikeouts: 3

With some better infield defense, FISTER could easily go the minimum and probably could have tried to finish six innings. But instead, he gets an ugly line and those who don't look closely enough will be quick to point out how this shows he can't be a good start. To the contrary, he walked no one and got a lot of groundballs.

Speaking of looking beyond, cue the Clement Bandwagon trumpeting the 2 XBH game as proof of how ready he is to replace Rob Johnson while conveniently forgetting he was 5 for his previous 34 ABs (with 10 K) or that the big day brings his season line to an unimpressive 229/330/458 in 5... 4... 3.... Seriously, though, he'll need to tattoo the ball consistently, while catching (he was the DH today), before he is closer to ready than unready. Remember that he started the season in Tacoma because his catching was poor and the work thereupon began to affect his hitting. That didn't suddenly cease to be an issue.

Meanwhile, Steven Shell came in for the 5th and gave up a solo home run to Manuel Mayorson (who now has 9 career home runs in over 3500 AB; this was his 1st of the season) to tie the game. Bryan LaHair, however, led off the 6th with a solo shot of his own to give the Rainiers the lead for good. A two run double by Guillermo Quiroz in the 7th made it 8-5 to create sufficient cushion.


So, as they tend to do when the Rainiers play in New Orleans, the New Orleans Zephyrs remind me of this:

The Zephyrs play at Zephyr Field, an outdoor park where the oppressive, humid conditions of New Orleans can slow down play. And indeed, offense at Zephyrs Field is a bit muted.

But believe it or not, the Louisiana Superdome, typically a football and special sporting venue, does have a baseball configuration and has been used on several occasions for baseball. The New Orleans Penguins of the old American Association played there in 1977 (players on that AAA Houston Astros affiliate included Tony LaRussa and Jim Riggleman), and the dome's been host to several college tournaments, though isn't used anymore. To get an idea of how the venue played, below are highlights of the 1987 Busch Challenge.

The game always plays faster on Astroturf, but it seems that despite the Astrodome-like spacious dimensions, home runs and offense were easy to come by in the venue.

- The 1977 Pelicans (affiliated with the Astros) led the league in home runs allowed even though the staff finished 3rd in strikeouts and was middle of the pack in walks allowed.
- Their hitters, despite the lowest average and OBP in the Association, finished 4th of 8 teams in home runs with 111.
- Jim Riggleman posted the highest HR per AB of his long minor league career.
- Benny Ayala's 18 HR and .500 slugging were the highest of his six year Triple A career.
- John Tamargo's 10 HR marked the only year of his 8 year minors career that he hit double digit home runs, and accounted for over a quarter of his 36 career home runs.
- Tommy Sandt's 10 HR were easily a career high in a 14 year career where he hit 270/338/343.
- Leading pitcher Steve Dunning's career HR/9 was 0.73, but his HR/9 spiked to 0.95 in New Orleans, only to drop to 0.64 the following season in Hawaii (which was a career collapse year, in fact: he retired after that season in Hawaii).

The Superdome was a launchpad, and the only real obstacle to playing there was a lack of a drawing card. Note the empty seats in that video. The Pelicans likely moved to Springfield in 1978 because of an inability to fill the giant dome, creating a mausoleum effect even with the upper deck tarped off. They would have had to sell 25,000 to 30,000 tickets a game to fill the joint, and with a bad minor league team they never came close.

It's been years since the baseball format was used there and if anyone can help it, they may never play there again.

- They don't have FieldTurf for a baseball layout
- The stadium has concrete warning tracks
- The New Orleans Saints and various college teams play football there, plus the Superdome remains a very popular convention and special events site. This makes scheduling games very difficult.
- The city's economic makeup, which wasn't great to begin with, is still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
- The demand for baseball there isn't that great and the Zephyrs already do a good job of cornering what little of a baseball market there is, plus have a home field just for that.
- Like other older parks, the seating is a bit distant for baseball and fans who trek to the Superdome may find the experience a bit detached, especially if there's a lot of empty seats.

Still, it's a major curiosity of mine as to how the Superdome would have played had an MLB or minor league team entertained the possibility of playing there, even in exhibition games.

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