Spring Training Baseball: Day 4 in the Cactus League

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3/13/08

 

Day 4 of baseball, folks! Another day in beautiful Peoria, Arizona at the Peoria Sports Complex. The game: Seattle Mariners vs. San Francisco Giants. The pitching matchup: Jarrod Washburn vs. Kevin Correia.

 

Jarrod Washburn, slotted as the #4 starter in the Mariners rotation, performed admirably today. After a rough first inning, where he gave up 2 runs (only 1 earned) following a Mike Morse error, he settled down and ended with a pretty good line: 5 IP, 6 hits, 1 BB and 1 K. He was his typical self, working fast and breezy. He was in midseason form (which usually doesn’t mean much), picking off two runners during his 5 innings as well. Washburn has been inconsistent at best as a Mariner, but it’s about time he puts in a solid year, even though solid for him is about a 4.5 ERA with double digit wins.

 

The Giants starter Kevin Correia didn’t fare as well. He couldn’t get out of three innings, with a final line of 2 2/3 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB and 3 K’s. He was able to get out of jams without giving up the one killer hit, but that was more to do with facing Richie Sexson than being particularly good, I’d say. I don’t foresee Correia helping many fantasy teams this year, and will probably end spring as the #5 starter for the Giants with Lowry out. After three innings, the Giants trailed the Mariners 3-2.

 

The score would stay the same until the 7th, when R.A. Dickey came in. My new favorite Mariner pitched solidly, but he hit his first batter in the face (poor Kevin Frandsen was caught bunting), and his pinch runner came around to score on a double by Emmanuel Buriss, a supplemental first rounder from 2005. The score would never change, and ended on a 3-3 tie.

 

Today’s game was really the only time where I could clearly see that this was spring training. Once tied in the 7th, it was almost like both teams rolled over, wanting the game to be over. The Mariners were caught stealing twice in the 8th, and it just really didn’t look like either team was going all out to break the tie, and after the 10th inning, the game ended nodded at 3. A kind of disappointing end, but a good game nonetheless.

 

I got to see two Mariners that had been elusive until today: Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez. A hit had been elusive for Ichiro coming in, but he led off the 1st with an infield hit, his first of spring training (you read that right). Needless to say, I’m not worried. He’ll hit well over .300, lead the league in hits, score 100 runs, and steal 30 bases. Consistency rules. Ichiro finished the day 1 for 4.

 

Raul Ibanez went 2 for 4 with an RBI in the first inning. He’s starting to decline, but as long as he hits 3rd or 4th, he should get 100 RBI’s and will still hit for a good average. He finished with 21 homeruns last year, and I doubt he’ll top that this year, but he’s still a solid value.

 

I also got my first glimpse of new Mariner Brad Wilkerson. He went 2 for 4 as well. I believe I mentioned that I believe he was a solid find by the M’s, and I think he’ll end the year on fantasy teams.

 

The relief pitchers for either side were very solid, though aside from Putz, there’s little to no fantasy value or interest here. Jack Taschner, a tall lefty of the Giants, with a career ERA over 6, pitched 1 1/3 solid innings and struck out one, but walked two. Steve Kline pitched very well, and was practically dominant, striking out two in his inning of work. I suspect that Kline will be a name we hear a lot in trade rumors up until the deadline, as long as he pitches better than he did last year (and he will). Victor Santos followed, the 31 year old journeyman pitcher. He went 1 inning of scoreless relief. Billy Sadler went two innings of zeroes after him, and he looked the best of the bunch, despite giving up two hits. He looked like a hard thrower. Merkin Valdez pitched the 9th, hitting one batter and giving up another hit, but this was the inning where the Mariners were caught stealing twice. He didn’t pitch well at all, but was handed two outs. Valdez used to be a top prospect until ineffectiveness and Tommy John surgery and he’s trying to make his way back. He could surprise and make the team, but I doubt he’ll be more than serviceable, if that. And lastly, Sergio Romo finished off the game with an easy inning. Rotoworld.com has barely nothing on this guy. He’s my prediction for Cy Young in 2011.

 

Cha Seung Baek pitched the 6th inning for the Mariners, and went a scoreless inning of relief, striking out one and giving up one hit. Baek has bounced around a lot for the Mariners, an emergency start here, the 5th starter there, long relief or in the minors. It figures that he’ll begin the year in the rotation in triple-A, and I don’t think he’ll ever get another real chance to crack the rotation until he leaves Seattle, which seems imminent. He’s out of options, so if he’s opted to Tacoma, he’d have to pass through waivers. The 8-year minor league veteran says he’d opt for free agency if that’s the case. He’d rather try his chances elsewhere, and I can’t blame him. Unless the Mariners suffer injuries, I doubt he’ll be in the rotation any time soon. I wouldn’t be too excited if he gets a start or two, since he’s never been more than solid even in the minors. I think he has the potential to be a good 4th or 5th starter if he could break spring with that job, but that ain’t happening in Seattle.

 

Last I heard Dave Roberts would be the starting centerfielder for the Giants to start the year, leaving Rajai Davis on the bench, but they would platoon the two. This is ridiculous, especially for a team like the Giants, who need to see what they have in their young players, because they aren’t going anywhere. Davis and Roberts are pretty similar players in terms of production, but why not go young. Davis presumably has more speed than the veteran, and he had 22 steals in 75 games for the Giants last year. If Davis plays, he’s a surefire bet for 40 plus steals, and definitely has fantasy value, even though he won’t do anything else. I don’t think it will be too long before Bochy realizes that Davis needs to start, or before an injury to Roberts will force his hand. Davis started and went 1 for 1 with a walk (Davis actually had a 22:28 BB/KK ratio with the Giants, so his on base skills are underrated). Another player the Giants should be starting is Fred Lewis, who came onto the scene with a vengeance last year, and did nothing to ruin his chances at starting, but the Giants still cling to crappy veterans. Fred went 2 for 4 and hit the ball hard in all four at bats. I think he can be solid if given the chance, at the least.

 

Starting at DH and in the cleanup spot for the Giants was Ray Durham. He went 2 for 4 with a double off the wall. The Giants are trying to showcase him for trade, because they’d rather give a spot to Rich Aurilia, but after a .218 batting average, it’s going to take a lot to get someone to take his contract. That said, I think if Durham plays and plays consistently, he’ll be a decent bet to rebound. He should be able to hit at least .280 and if he remains with the Giants and wins a job, he’d most likely hit 3rd-5th in the order, so it’d be hard not to have 80 RBI’s. I definitely think Durham will end up starting for 2B starved fantasy teams. I think the Mets would be better off with him than Luis Castillo, for one.

 

Miguel Cairo made a push for a spot on the 25 man roster today, going 1 for 5 with a solo homerun, and playing very solid defense at shortstop. He looked very smooth out there, and his defense is definitely superior from the other utility options the Mariners have in Mike Morse and Willie Bloomquist. Cairo offers nothing in the way of upside and I doubt if the Mariners elect to keep him that he’d end up affecting more than one game in the standings, so I hope the Mariners go a different route, but since he is a solid veteran, I bet he ends up on the team (speaking of possible bench players, Greg Norton boosted his chances with a pinch hit single in the 9th). He’s better than Richie Sexson at least. McLaren touts the monstrous right-handed power hitter as a shoo in for comeback player of the year, but so far in spring I see the same old Richie. No longer Big Sexy, he went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and a walk, and left 4 men on base. I still have a hope that he can at least hit .250 and 30 homeruns, but who knows after his dreadful 2007 campaign. I’d still spend a late round draft pick on him, because he is hitting cleanup for the Mariners in spring.

 

If Miguel Cairo beats out Mike Morse for a job, it’s a shame. Mike Morse, aside from his 1st inning gaffe at 3rd base that lead to an unearned run, was perfect on Thursday. He went 3 for 3 with three singles and also walked, reaching base all four times he hit. The Mariners have done everything in their power to screw this guy up. He was a touted SS with attitude problems when they acquired him in the Freddy Garcia trade years ago, and now they’ve turned him into a utility player and haven’t given him a chance to secure an everyday position, despite being 25 years old and hitting like crazy when given the opportunity. It appears Morse is a favorite for a backup outfield spot, but that’s likely to leave him on the bench a lot. I say trade Vidro for a solid prospect while you still can, and give Morse some at bats (and Jeremy Reed, a former top prospect that just can’t catch a break with the Mariners; he got hit by a pitch in his only plate appearance today).

 

There was also a Tug Hulett sighting in Peoria, who started at 2B for the Mariners. He went 1 for 5 and played great defense. He had a solid 2007 campaign in triple-A, and was the guy the Mariners received for Ben Broussard. I doubt he has a solid career ahead of him, but you gotta root for a guy nicknamed Tug.

 

Last but not least, Jeff Clement started at catcher for the Mariners. I like how the Mariners are sticking with him at catcher, and he’s improved at the position. He threw out Randy Winn trying to steal, and looked comfortable behind the plate. He went 0 for 3 with a walk, but also struck out twice. This guy has monster potential, and I think he’ll be starting at catcher for the Mariners by 2009, when Johjima is elsewhere. Or, he’ll be at 1B or DH if the Mariners grow tired of Sexson and/or Vidro.

 

That’s it for today’s game. Tomorrow, still at Peoria, we get to see the Colorado Rockies vs. the Mariners!

 

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