I spent Sunday afternoon checking out the Peoria Sports Complex, Spring Training home of your Seattle Mariners. Since we’re new on the Seattle farm this year, I thought it would be a great introduction to catch current and future Mariners at the beginning of their long odyssey.
It also gave me the opportunity to meet our new manager first-hand. Scott Steinmann has been in the Midwest League before with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, once as a player and again as a manager, but neither time while I was around. After watching him preside over morning bullpen sessions along with our future pitching coach Lance Painter, I got a chance to catch up with him and pick his brain.
Dave Lezotte: After managing double-A West Tennessee to the playoffs last year, what was your reaction on returning to the ? Especially to the city of Clinton, where you’ve been to as a player and a manager before?
Scott Steinmann: My reaction to going back to the Midwest League was good. I am honored that the organization would entrust me with so many young impressionable players that are the future of the. Like I told you today, I loved coming to the ballpark in Clinton early, as a player, coach and manager, because I would sit in the stands, eat, and think of all the great Major Leaguers that have played on that field.
DL: Is there a different managerial style with a young low-A club as compared to the more advanced double-A? What will LumberKings fans see in the way you manage?
SS: Patience is the only thing that has increased in my managerial style. Clinton fans will certainly see our players make some mistakes. We as a player development staff want our young players to push the envelope and test themselves daily. The more mistakes they make, the more opportunities we as a staff have to teach. We just hope that the mistakes are less and less as the year goes on. We play in a very big ballpark in, , so as an organization we want all of our players to run the bases and situation hit well so we have a better chance of scoring runs at the Major League level.
DL: Talk a little about the rest of your coaching staff.has big-league experience and has coached in this league before, Jesus Azuaje has extensive experience coaching in Venezuela. How will that experience help?
SS: This is the first time I will be working with both of them and I am excited to be a part of a
staff that has many years of experience coaching and playing at the higher levels. I will try to learn from them on a daily basis. Lance is an experienced coach that has a great handle on the mental side of pitching. Jesus is an infield guy that I will be personally leaning on to help me out with running our defensive positioning. I look forward to work along side these fine men.
DL: What is the process like of evaulating players in Spring and finding out who will fit on your team? How long does it take before you have a good idea who’s going to be on your roster?
SS: We, as a collective staff, (all staff not just Clinton) have lengthy discussions on players daily and in the end we try to put all the players where they need to be for their development. As far as the length of time that it takes to make these decisions, it could be the last day of camp before someone is on our roster. Due to injuries, trades, other releases, etc. we do not know the roster until the last day.
DL: With Jack Zduriencik and Pedro Grifol running the show, has there been any change in philosophy for the Mariners’ system?
SS: The overall philosophy of player development has never changed throughout time: “Never sacrifice a player’s development for a win!” We in the Minors are all about developing players that are going to make it in the Majors.
DL: What are your own goals and expectations for the season?
SS: 140-0…(I know you will run with this one). I have never planned on losing a game. We do not practice to lose a game/series. We do prepare for success everyday. I know that these are high expectations and no one has ever obtained them but that does not mean you have to lower your standards.
There’s plenty more coverage on the 2009 Cactus League coming on the LumberBlog, including more from Mariners camp in Peoria, catching up with former LumberKings with the Texas Rangers in Surprise, AZ and even a Milwaukee Brewers-Chicago Cubs matchup. Stay tuned.
I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been mainly paying attention to the Mariners and Rangers systems at the present, but I’ve forgotten to include Philadelphia Phillies’ outfielder John Mayberry, Jr. (’06).
For those who don’t pay attention to the minor trades of the offseason (or forget about them, like myself), Mayberry was sent to the defending World Champs for centerfielder Greg Golson in November. Mayberry was drafted in the first round of the 2002 June draft by the Mariners but did not sign, then went to Stanford and was drafted in the first round of the 2005 draft by the Rangers. Golson was likewise a first-round pick, drafted in 2004 by the Phillies.
Mayberry had been included on the Rangers’ 40-man roster but was not called up at the end of last season despite decent power numbers in triple-A Oklahoma (.263, 16 HR, 58 RBI, .474 SLG). Obviously the breakout of Josh Hamilton and the rising stock of both David Murphy and Nelson Cruz (mix in Brandon Boggs (’05) as well) put Mayberry on the backburner in the outfield, and his conversion back to first base was no longer necessary after what Chris Davis did as a rookie last year.
Now, with the Phillies, he’s getting a long look at big-league camp. Through the first six games, nobody has more plate appearances than Mayberry. In his first 17 at-bats, he’s doubled twice, homered and driven in five runs while posting .353 average. If he can keep up that pace, he COULD make the roster ahead of vets like Geoff Jenkins and Matt Stairs. Again, keeping up that torrid pace is the key, especially since he’s now playing in the National League and there’s no DH spot for Jenkins/Stairs.
Still, it’s good to see early success out of Mayberry. He was one of the lone offensive bright spots of our dismal 2006 season (also my first with the club) when we set the club record for worst record at 45-94. No small task considering our franchise dates back to 1937.
Mayberry blasted 21 home runs that season, making him the first of three successive LumberKings to hit 21 in a season — one short of the 47-year-old franchise record of 22 held by Dick Kenworthy. Someday we’ll see that record OFFICIALLY fall, but Mayberry for all intensive purposes tied it that year. On a cold April day at Fifth Third Ballpark in West Michigan, he crushed a ball well inside the left-field foul pole that replacement umpires did not see. It was called foul to the disagreement of basically everyone in the park that day. Kenworthy’s record withstood the threat, and “The Ghost of Kenworthy” myth was born.
I doubt “Big John” is worried about that record these days.
With all the talent that has passed through Alliant Energy Field over the past three seasons, I’m still surprised by the fact that not one LumberKing from 2006-08 has made a Major League Debut. We came close last year with Mike Ballard’s (’07) almost-start, but still it has not happened.
That will obviously change soon, possibly on the season’s first day. It seemed for a while like Jose Vallejo (’06-’07) had a shot to be that man, but Joaquin Arias is off to a huge start (3 RBI in his first 9 at-bats) and veteran Omar Vizquel is still making barehanded plays like he’s 20. Plus, Jose’s only 1-for-7 so far. With that said, there’s plenty of Spring to go, so don’t count Vallejo out.
How about what Justin Smoak (’08) has done so far? He has yet to play above low-A, yet he’s faring more than well in big-league camp. He’s 4-for-9 with two doubles in five games. The only “coming down to earth” stat? Of his five hitless at-bats, he’s struck out four times. Still, anything I’ve read about Smoak has been positive, especially regarding his defense. If not for rising star Chris Davis at first base, Smoak might have a clearer and faster path through the system. I would think he’ll still spend plenty of time in the minors this year (his first full season), but if he continues to hit Major League pitching, he might end up in triple-A sooner than we think.
Right-hander Neftali Feliz (’08) made his spring debut the other day, giving up a run on three hits over 2.0 innings. Yes he’s human…kind of. He also struck out four in the outing, most so far by a Ranger. If there’s any former King with more hype surrounding him this spring than Feliz, I haven’t heard of him.
Things did not go so well for left-hander Derek Holland (’08) in his first recorded action. A man who served up only three home runs between Clinton, Bakersfield and Frisco last year allowed two bombs in just one inning of work. Holland also uncharacteristically walked two batters (he walked only 11 batters in his final nine starts last year), but ”saved” the outing with a pair of strikeouts. Omar Poveda (’06-07) allowed two earned runs over 2.0 innings in his first outing as well. Again, it’s early.
So far with regards to Spring Training, we’ve been following a lot of Rangers prospects. This Sunday, March 8th I’ll be traveling to the Peoria Sports Complex to check out Seattle Mariners camp for the first time. I hope to catch up with upcoming LumberKings manager Scott Steinmann and get a look at some of the prospects that might end up here. Failing that, I should at least have plenty of photos from sunny Arizona. Stay tuned to the LumberBlog for that coverage next week.