Spring Training Baseball: Day 3 in the Cactus League

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Day 3, 3/12/08

Quick note about yesterday’s game: Sam Fuld, the centerfielder for the Cubs, playing for the injured Felix Pie. I forgot to really mention it, but he looked very impressive. He showed great instincts in center, making a diving catch right in front of me in deep right center, and cutting off balls in the gap with ease. He’s small and stout, but he was also the 2007 AFL MVP. While it appears Fuld has not been given the chance to beat Pie for the centerfield job, I don’t think this is the last we’ve heard of him. He has speed, so he could be a mixed league asset if Pie fails to live up to his 20/20 potential.

Our journey continued to our home base for the next three days, Peoria, Arizona at the Peoria Sports Complex, the home of the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres. Today’s game: Mariners vs. the Milwaukee Brewers!

 

Pitching Match-Up: Carlos Villanueva vs. Carlos Silva

 

It was hotter today than the previous two days, but luckily, the clouds came in around the 5th inning to save my skin for another day. I was excited about the game ahead. I got a few autographs, including one from the Sheriff, Norm Charlton, one of the former nasty boys of the Cincinnati Reds, and now the bullpen coach for the Mariners. I also got Matt Tuiasosopo, so forget everything I wrote about him on Monday, this guy is going to be a star. I also got two other guys that I couldn’t for the life of me tell you who they are. I was unable to get Prince Fielder or anyone notable from the Brewers (or anyone notable from the Mariners for that matter).

The game went fast. It was all zeroes until the sixth inning. Carlos Villanueva pitched well, going 4 innings, and giving up only two hits, walking one and striking out one. He hardly got into any jams, and was a breeze in his half of the innings. He had a 3.95 ERA last year, and pitched very well in relief, and performed well as a starter late in the year. Because of the Brewers wealth of starters, Villanueva has been unable to secure a rotation spot to this point, but with Gallardo’s injury, I think it clears the way for a spot. My guess is he keeps it for the rest of the year. I can definitely see him being one of the hot pickups to start the year, and is a good guy to have an eye on in fantasy leagues. Fantasy or no, I think he’s a good bet for the Brewers this year, and his spring training stats point to him taking a job over Chris Capuano.

Carlos Silva is a big man, I’ll tell you that. He’s gotta be around 260. He went 5 innings, giving up 7 hits (all singles) and striking out one with no walks. He surprised me today, and aside from a scary bases loaded one out jam that he got out of in the 3rd inning, he was spotless in this game. Silva gives up a lot of hits, but if he can keep them to singles, he should be worth at least half of the $12 million a year price tag the Mariners gave him, which is something. He could garner fantasy value yet (maybe have a Miguel Batista season).

Before going any further, let’s get an update on my favorite young Mariner, Wladimir Balantien. He started in centerfield today, as Ichiro was missing in today’s game (as was Raul Ibanez). He actually handled himself quite well, and is a lot faster than I thought. This guy hustles all over the field, and has been hitting 4 or 5 in every game I’ve seen him (two!). He will probably begin the year in triple-A, but if Wilkerson doesn’t mimic Jose Guillen (which I think he can; remember, Wilkerson has supposed to be a stud for years now, and I think he can put together an underrated season; he at least takes a walk, unlike anyone else on the Mariners besides Sexson, and he has problems of his own) or if Ibanez or Sexson stink it up or get injured, I think Balantien may see the call by June or July. I really would like to see what he can do. Today he went 1 for 4 with a key run scoring double in the 8th inning.

Another young man, on the Brewers, shined today. Tony Gwynn Jr. went 2 for 4, and was robbed of a bunt single by Cairo in the 8th inning. He played a good centerfield as well. With Mike Cameron suspended, Gwynn should get a chance to play to begin the year. That was before the Brewers signed Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler. I think Gwynn’s a definite upgrade over Kapler, a 32 year old who coached in the minors last year. Gwynn has speed potential and good pedigree, obviously, so keep an eye on him, although his potential is limited.

After Villanueva exited, Chris Capuano took over in the 5th inning. Villanueva obviously has the edge because he’s starting and Capuano is relieving, and this outing won’t do Capuano any favors to open the year. But in this case, it wasn’t his fault. His final numbers were 3 2/3 IP, 6 hits, 1 K, 0 BB and gave up 5 runs, but all were unearned. The Brewers defense did not have his back in this one, making three errors in the 7th and 8th innings, each leading to run scoring rallies. In the 7th Jose Lopez got on because of an error by 3B Abraham Nunez to extend the inning, and Mike Morse drove him in with a clutch two out double. Morse continues to impress. He went 3 for 4 today with 2 RBI’s, and he’s almost commanding a roster spot at this point during spring. In the 8th, Capuano ran into tough luck again. He again got the first two outs of the inning, but Miguel Cairo, subbing for Adrian Beltre, extended the inning with a double (he took a step forward in securing a utility and bench spot in today’s game, going 1 for 1 and making a great barehanded play off of a bunt by Tony Gwynn Jr.; I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, because it will probably take away from Morse’s chances). From there, Bryan LaHair got on with an error, and the rest is history: Balantien doubled, Rob Johnson hit a line drive single off of Capuano’s leg (sounded ugly), Jose Lopez got on from ANOTHER error and Morse got another hit. The inning finally ended when Capuano was relieved. But the damage was done, the Mariners came into the inning tied at 1 with the Brewers, and left with a 5-1 lead, a lead that Eric O’Flaherty would not relinquish, striking out two in an easy 9th inning (the Mariners really need O’Flaherty to repeat his out of nowhere success of last season, especially after trading fellow lefty and stud George Sherill).

Anyways, poor Capuano. He didn’t deserve what he got, and this outing will make it tough for him to get a rotation spot. I’m not sure where that leaves the guy. Will the Brewers send him to triple-A? Seems hard to believe for a guy who looked to be a surefire stud after making his big league debut. I don’t think the guy is as bad as his numbers reflect, and I think a team should definitely try and make a trade while his stock is down. The Brewers certainly don’t need him, with their 8 viable starting pitchers, so someone could get a good price. Capuano should still be considered a fantasy sleeper heading into 2008 if he somehow locks down a job somewhere.

Quick notes on the other three relief pitchers for the Mariners:

  • Chris Reitsma: Trying to come back from a career threatening injury last year, Chris gave up the first run of the game in his inning of work, but looked solid, striking out Fielder with a monster change up. The Mariners tend to love veterans, even if they have a strong possibility of being crappy or injured, so I think Reitsma could nail down a job if he doesn’t blow and doesn’t blow out his arm.
  • Arthur Rhodes: Another guy trying to reclaim his career. He was a staple of the Mariners of old, and the way he pitched today he might get another shot. He had zip on his fastball, and got three easy groundouts in his inning. Since the Mariners love this guy, he could end up with a roster spot when the spring is over. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but the Mariners has so many question marks as is.
  • Mark Lowe: He was filthy in 2006, with a 1.93 ERA in his rookie year before he blew out his arm, requiring elbow surgery. A very scary injury for a young guy, but he’s still only 24, and has the potential to be the set up man for JJ Putz is he can be at all healthy this year, which is a big if. He tried to come back too soon last year and was ineffective and required more rehab, but he looks good so far. Let’s hope the kid can come back. The Mariners need him.

The only run the Brewers were able to get was off the bat of Joe Dillon, who singled in Gabe Gross in the 6th inning against Reitsma. Dillon went 2 for 4 with an RBI as the DH in today’s game. He’s 32, but he hit over .300 in limited time last year, and definitely deserves a bench spot over Abraham Nunez.

In the 9th inning, Matt LaPorta pinch hit for Laynce Nix (yeah that Nix), and promptly doubled off the wall. This guy was the 7th pick in the draft in 2007, and apparently packs a wallop. He was a surprise when he was drafted so early, because he doesn’t really have a position, but he can clearly hit. The Brewers had success with another rookie with questionable defense (Ryan Braun; speaking of which, no sign of Braun today), so fantasy owners should keep an eye on LaPorta, because he can definitely hit.

Anyways, another day, and another good spring game. 5 to 1 win for the Mariners. Tomorrow, still at the Peoria Sports Complex, the Mariners take on the formidable San Francisco Giants!

Post any comments or suggestions, as usual, anyone.

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One Response to “Spring Training Baseball: Day 3 in the Cactus League”

  1. Ichiro Suzuki Autographed Jersey Owner Says:

    As a far-away (Europe) Mariners fan, I am always looking for new sites with information about Ichiro and the rest of the Mariners.

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