Colton Swanson, Reporter
Before the 2017 season, Jerry Dipoto did his due diligence in adding depth to the minor league clubs in case of injuries. Even Jerry couldn’t have predicted what was in store for the Mariners this year.
With MLB’s addition of the 10-day doubled list, more players than ever have found themselves on the shelf. While players such as Troy Tulowitski seem to take a year trip to the disabled list, some players such as Adrian Gonzalez have found themselves there for the first time in their careers.
The Mariners have seen their fair share of injuries. Of the five projected starters before the season, only Yovani Gallardo still stands. Drew Smyly, James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez are all currently injured along with some of the bullpen. Rookie Mitch Haniger is rehabbing and Jean Segura returned from the DL not too long ago. While this of course hurts the big league club, the minor league squads are feeling the adverse effects.
The Rainiers lost Ariel Miranda at the beginning of the season as he went to fill in at the big club. Players such as Ben Gamel, Dillion Overton, Mike Freeman, Dan Vogelbach and Chase De Jong have also been up with the Mariners this year, all of which seemed that they would be major parts of a successful season in Tacoma.
With that being said, the Mariners 2017 motto “Whatever it takes” has rung true for their AAA ball club. As of May 8th, the Rainiers had been involved in 25 roster moves in just six days, yet they still find themselves nine games over .500 entering play on May 11th.
Due to pitching injuries and call ups, Mariners prospect Andrew Moore made his AAA debut for the Rainiers on the 9th. Moore is a pitcher out of Oregon State and one of the organization’s top pitching prospects. Some fans may say that Moore is being rushed and moved along too quickly and while that may be true, the amount of pitchers that the Rainiers have sacrificed to the big league warrants a shot for the young pitcher.
Other players such as Boog Powell, Tuffy Gosewich and Christian Bergman have also been involved in the flurry of roster moves. The influx of new faces and names can do a lot to a team’s confidence but the Rainiers just keep rolling.
Tacoma holds a one-game lead over the Reno Aces for first place in the Pacific Coast League. They began a four game set with the Round Rock Express on the 11th. The team is just a few months removed from making it to the playoffs and it seems they will have to use every trick in the book to overcome the adversity that they have been presented with in 2017.
The M’s currently have ten players on the DL including 80 percent of the starting rotation. De Jong and Bergman will both make starts for Seattle in Toronto during their four game series against the Blue Jays, both of which have made starts for Tacoma this season.
Even if it’s not the disabled list, the Rainiers have been playing a game of roster roulette. A struggling Leonys Martin was designated for assignment last month and was then outrighted to Tacoma. He was joined by catcher Mike Zunino as he makes another trip to Tacoma after hitting below the Mendoza line in Seattle. PLayers such as Dan Altavilla and De Jong have made multiple trips up and down I-5 from Tacoma to Seattle as well as callups from AA Arkansas. A rehabbing Jean Segura made a few starts at shortstop as well as a few innings for both Steve Cishek and Tony Zych as they returned from injury.
It seems likely that Felix Hernandez and Mitch Haniger will have to spend some time in Tacoma on rehab assignments in Tacoma later this month as well. The plan is for both Martin and Zunino to correct the holes in their swings while in Tacoma and eventually make their way back to Seattle ready to make an impact.
Whether it just be the addition of the 10-day DL or just an anomaly occurring in Seattle or a combination of both, the fact remains that the Tacoma Rainiers along with the rest of the Seattle Mariners organization will have to overcome many different obstacles to salvage the rest of the season. Tacoma has shown no sign of slowing down.
Cheney Stadium will play host to the 2017 MiLB AAA All-Star Game and Homerun Derby. The 30th annual All-Star game will take place on Wed. July 12 in a revamped Triple-A stadium that has introduced a whole new viewing experience with the addition of the “R Yard” above the bullpen in left field. The party deck has also been revamped with an all new fire place located down the third baseline.
With the homerun derby being held in Cheney, Rainiers outfielder and Mariners #2 prospect Tyler O’Neill seems to be a favorite to represent the home town team in the showcase although his sub-.200 batting average could earn him a demotion to AA-Arkansas.
An exciting year is underway in Tacoma. The Rainiers look to continue their success before hosting one of minor league baseballs biggest weeks.
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