Archive for the ‘ Winter Leagues ’ Category

Hot Stove League and Mariners Mondays

Big offense is the theme for this week’s Mariners Mondays (7:30pm on ROOT SPORTS). Each week through March 5, ROOT SPORTS is highlighting big games from the 2011 season, helping to tide baseball fans over until Spring Training gets underway in earnest.

The Hot Stove League show will be hosted by  Shannon Drayer and Matt Pitman. Fans can listen locally in the Puget Sound region on 710 ESPN Seattle and over the Internet on Mariners.com. Guests for the show are scheduled to include:

Here is a teaser for the Mariners Mondays games that will be highlighted tonight on ROOT SPORTS:

Tonight, moments of Biblical proportions (as in the old joke “In the Big Inning…”). Let’s go back to June 5, Mariners vs. Tampa Bay Rays. The Mariners have taken two out of three from the Rays, with the final game of the four-game series on tap. The big hit of the game is a tie-breaking three-run homer by Miguel Olivo in the 8th inning. But the game was notable for a couple of two-run triples, one of baseball’s most exciting hits. One by Ichiro in the 3rd inning, and in a bittersweet moment, Greg Halman’s 2011 debut with a triple in the 7th. Halman had three hits in the game.

Miguel Olivo connects on a 3-run home run June 5, 2011 vs. Tampa Bay. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The next series of highlights are from the August 24 game at Cleveland. Two games were rained out in May, so the Mariners and Indians made up one of the games on the Mariners return trip in August (the second game would be made up in September… see below). The Mariners won the first game of the series 3-2 on March 22, split the doubleheader on March 23 with a 12-7 win in the nightcap, and bashed out another 16 hits on their way to a 9-2 win in game four. The offensive star of the day was rookie Kyle Seager, who was 4-for-4 with three doubles and a single. Seager’s college teammate at the University of North Carolina, Dustin Ackley, also got in on the act going 3-for-5. And Willy Mo Peña had a good game with a two-run home run, a double and a single. Oh, and Felix Hernandez had another good outing striking out 10, the 17th time in his career he reached double digits.

For the third game of the evening, the Mariners 12-6 win over the Indians on Sept. 19 is highlighted. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s raining. (What is it with bad weather for our games in Cleveland?) Starting pitcher Charlie Furbush got plenty of run support in the 12-6 rain-shortened game for his first win in over a month. He had a career-high 8 strikeouts and was buoyed by the Mariners 9-run third inning, including Alex Liddi’s first MLB homer, and a Mike Carp grand slam. By the way, Liddi’s homer was the first by an Italian-born player since Reno Bertoia hit one in 1961.

Mike Carp connects on his first career grand slam Sept. 19, 2011 at Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

- RH / JE

Still Playing Baseball Down Under

[Blog Update: The Perth Heat won the 2011-2012 Australian Baseball League title with a 7-6 win over Melbourne in 13 innings…and James McOwen scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch. Here is a game story from an Australian TV station and some video highlights from the ABL website

While 2012 Seattle Mariners Spring Training about to kick off with Pitchers and Catchers reporting to Peoria tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 11), they are still playing baseball Down Under in the Australian Baseball League Championship Series.

The Perth Heat lead the Melbourne Aces 1-0 in the best-of-3 Championship Series. Mariners farmhand James McOwen was the hitting hero for Perth in series-opening 4-1 victory. McOwen went 3-for-4 with a home run and 2 RBI. His solo home run to lead off the 4th inning (off former Mariners pitcher Travis Blackley) proved to be the game winning RBI. The game was replayed on the MLB Network, and James was a guest on the post-game show.

Mariners minor leaguer James McOwen is playing for the Perth Heat. (Theron Kirkman / SMP Images)

McOwen hit .293 (49×167) with 15 doubles, 2 triples, 1 home run, 14 stolen bases and 11 RBI in 41 regular-season games with the Heat. He has heated up during the playoffs, ranking 2nd in the ABL batting .455 (10×22) with one home run and 4 RBI.

James is featured in a Championship Series Spotlight on the Perth Heat website. He is in his second season playing in the Australian Baseball League, winning the Helms Award for the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2010-11 (.340, 11 HR, 30 RBI).

In four seasons in the Mariners farm system, McOwen has combined to bat .289 with 27 home runs and 220 RBI in 403 games. After sitting out the 2010 season with a dislocated left shoulder, he split last season between A High Desert (.291, 6 HR, 27 RBI) and AA Jackson (.261, 4 HR, 26 RBI). Mariners fans may remember James from his California League-record 45-game hitting streak in 2009, the 8th-longest in minor league history.

Fans can tune into the second game of the championship series online tonight (4:35 p.m. PT) via the Australian Baseball League website, or on a tape-delayed basis at 9 a.m. PT Saturday on the MLB Network.

James McOwen has been a star in the Australian Baseball League the last two off-seasons. (Perth Heat)

- JE

Winter League Roundup

Many baseball fans are curious about winter league ball, what it is, and why players would leave the comforts of an off-season at home to go play. It is a chance for players to continue their development into  Major League players. Teams usually send young players, someone who need more work because he didn’t get a full season in the minors, needs a little more experience, or a player coming off  an injury who needs  more playing time. MLB.com has a comprehensive list with statistics from most of the Mariners farmhands that participated in Winter Leagues this off-season.

Mariners minor league OF prospect Denny Almonte is hitting .299 with 10 home runs in the Australian Winter League (SMP Images / Ben Southall).

The Arizona Fall League provides all Major League organizations the opportunity to continue  the development of their top prospects. Each club contributes players to make up the league, which consists of six teams, each stocked by five Big League clubs. The Mariners top prospects play for the Peoria Javelinas, along with players from the  Brewers,  Mets, Padres and Cardinals.

LHP Danny Hultzen, the Mariners first-round selection in the 2011 June draft, made his professional debut in the AFL. Hultzen was joined on the Peoria roster by right-handed pitchers Steven Hensley and Forrest Snow, left-handed pitcher Brian Moran, catcher Adam Moore, infielder Nick Franklin and outfielder Chi-Hsien Chiang.

Snow led the AFL in ERA (1.10), while finishing second in opponent average (.167) and WHIP (0.80). Snow, Moran (1.32) and Hultzen (1.40) finished 1-2-3 on the Peoria Javelinas in ERA. Hultzen and Franklin helped lead the West Division All-Stars to an 11-2 win over the East Division in the 6th-annual AFL Rising Stars Game. Hultzen earned the win after tossing 2.0 shutout innings. Franklin went 4-for-5 with 3 runs scored, 2 doubles, 1 home run and 4 RBI to earn MVP honors. He became the first player in AFL Rising Stars game history to record 4 hits, 4 RBI, 3 extra base hits or 2 doubles in the game. Hultzen was also named to the Arizona Fall League 2011 Top Prospects Team, going 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA (3 ER, 19.1 IP) in 6 starts.

Danny Hultzen went 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA in the Arizona Fall League (Jordan Megenhardt/MLB.com).

Winter ball is also played in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Mexico. At the end of the season, the champions of each league play each other in the Caribbean Series.  The Mariners have a working agreement with teams in each league and send minor league players and coaches to help teams. It is also an opportunity for the Mariners organization scout talent from those countries as well as American players playing in Latin America. Some of the Mariners top prospects participated the winter leagues, including pitchers Erasmo Ramirez and Stephen Pryor, infielders Alex Liddi, Carlos Triunfel and Francisco Martinez and outfielders Johermyn Chavez and Carlos Peguero.

Peguero led the Dominican Winter League in home runs (11), extra-base hits (20), total bases (85), runs scored (29), intentional walks (9) and HR/AB ratio (1/15.09), while ranking 2nd in slugging percentage (.512) and 3rd in RBI (26). Overall he hit .259 (43×166) with 29 runs scored 9 doubles, 11 home runs and 29 RBI in 45 games with Gigantes del Cibao.

Ramirez went 2-1 with a 1.48 ERA (5 ER, 30.1 IP) in 6 starts with Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League before being shut down due to number of starts.

Down under, Mate! If it is snowing in Seattle it is likely warm and sunny in Australia. The Australian Baseball League is another popular destination with Mariners farmhands. Right-handed pitcher Jandy Sena, outfielders Denny Almonte, James Jones and James McOwen and catcher Carlton Tanabe are currently wrapping up the ABL.

James Jones is batting .302 for the Adelaide Bite in the Australian Winter League (SMP Images / Ryan Schembri).

Almonte (1×4, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB) and McOwen (3×4, R, 2B, BB) represented Team World in the inaugural Australian Baseball League All-Star Game, where the country’s best homegrown talent, Team Australia, took on the best international players in the ABL in Perth on December 21. Almonte was also named Australian Baseball League Round 5 Player of the Week (Dec. 1-3 – .563/9×16, 3 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 4 G), while McOwen was named Round 6 Player of the Week (Dec. 8-10, .533/8×15, 3 R, 3 2B, 3B, 3 RBI).

Almonte ranks amongst the league leaders in home runs (T5th, 10), total bases (6th, 90), runs scored (4th, 33), RBI (T3rd, 35), extra base hits (5th, 21) and at-bats (3rd, 171). McOwen currently leads the league in stolen bases (14) and tied for the lead in triples (2).

Looks like everyone will arrive in Arizona for Spring Training ready to compete for a roster spot. We look forward to seeing these young prospects in a Mariners uniform very soon.

- KM

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