March 2011

Kings in Spring (March 30)

A Mauro Gomez (’07) sighting!  The former LumberKings’ first-baseman, now with the Atlanta Braves, hit a 2-run, walk-off home run in the 10th inning off Minnesota Twins reliever Matt Capps in a 4-2 victory at Turner Field yesterday.  Check out the article and view the video here:  http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110329&content_id=17189546&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=atl

That’s Gomez’s only hit in two at-bats this Spring for the Braves.  He’ll be headed for an affiliate somewhere near the top of the organization, but what a moment for the man who hit 21 bombs for Mike Miccuci’s ’07 Kings.

-DL

Wilhelmsen, Lueke Reportedly on Mariners’ Opening Day Roster

I saw it first on the Everett AquaSox Facebook page, then saw it again at Larry LaRue’s blog for the Tacoma News Tribune, and saw it once more on Geoff Baker’s blog for the Seattle Times.

Are you sitting down for this one?  Ok.  Right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen (’10), the feel-good reclamation story and former LumberKings’ starter, has reportedly made the Seattle Mariners’ Opening Day roster.  Right-hander Josh Lueke (’07-’08) is coming with him, also to make a Major League debut.  And first-baseman Justin Smoak (’08) will be there, too.

We all know the Wilhelmsen backstory by now, but to enhance the Disney-movie-worthy script even further, he’ll be making the move to the Majors having last pitched professionally here in Clinton.  No high-A, no double-A, no triple-A.  That doesn’t happen too often, but in Tom’s case, his age and stuff have got him there on the Albert Pujols timetable.

The Mariners released this article and video on Wilhelmsen, penned by Greg Johns just yesterday.  Do note that Seattle at this stage has not released their Opening Day roster officially, but given the credibility of the two news blogs reporting it, I think it’s safe to report.

Sounds like a great time to revisit my 2010 posts on Tom.  Check them out:

We should be hearing more on our roster here in Clinton shortly.  I can’t break any news on that, unfortunately.

-DL

Kings in Spring (March 28)

Well, as you can see, The LumberBlog looks slightly different with the recent conversion of all the Pro Blogs to WordPress.  I’m still getting used to the features, but it looks like there’s a lot more flexibility here.  Moving on to more important things.

Seattle Mariners’ camp is winding down out in Peoria, but there’s been a lot of noise made lately by former LumberKings.  On Sunday, it was Kyle Seager (not identified as Mario Martinez this time) making the most of a call-up to the Major League game as he launched a  solo home run in the eighth inning off Texas Rangers’ hopeful Dave Bush.  Ultimately, the Mariners still fell, 5-4.

Today, it’s Steven Baron (’10) re-appearing in the box score.  Recently sent back to Minor League camp, the Mariners brought him back up today to play against the Colorado Rockies in Seattle’s last home Cactus League game.  After a Justin Smoak single (’08) and RBI knock by Michael Saunders, Baron calmly stepped up and delivered a walk-off single to right.  Final score, Mariners 7, Rockies 6.  Baron, by the way, is now 7-for-13 (.538) with three RBI in big-league camp.

The Mariners selected the contracts of right-handers Jamey Wright and Chris Ray today, releasing infielder Josh Wilson to clear space.  What does that mean for right-handers Josh Lueke (’07-’08) and Tom Wilhelmsen (’10)?  We might know that soon, but both remain on the Spring Training roster with only a few days left.  One of those two — if not both — will be Mariners sooner than later.

The 2011 LumberKings Gameday Program is nearing completion and will feature some of the 75th anniverary content you’ve already been seeing on LumberKings.com.  Also, just completed today, a brief essay I did about Nick Franklin’s chase to break Dick Kenworthy’s franchise home run record last year.  I’m pretty proud of it.  I may post it here once the program is finished.

Less than 10 days remain until the opener against Burlington.

-DL

Kings in Spring (March 25)

Well, it was nice to finally catch the Mariners in Cactus League action, even though it was from the dusty office TV as they played the Chicago Cubs on WGN rather than from my favorite seat down the left-field line at the Peoria Sports Complex.  Still, it was nice to get a look at right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen (’10) in the #73 uni…aside for a minor hiccup in the way of a Blake DeWitt solo homer, he looked pretty comfortable in two innings of relief work.  Wilhelmsen and Justin Smoak (’08), who went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, look like locks to make the Opening Day roster to me.

Another funny note from the game, former LumberKings infielder Kyle Seager (’09) got into the action at third base, wearing #92 with no nameplate.  The 90′s numbers are normally given to the Minor League players called up to the big-league game for the day, but apparently that number was originally intended for Mario Martinez.  As a result, Cubs’ broadcaster Len Kasper referred to Seager as Martinez for a couple defensive plays and a full at-bat.  I doubt anyone aside from me, the Seager family and a few other Clintonites noticed or cared.

I didn’t catch the entire game, but Denny Almonte (’09) also made a cameo appearance, grounding out on one pitch in his lone at-bat.

In Texas Rangers news, and certainly a note not to be lost in the mix, it appears that former LumberKings’ third-baseman and one-time Futures Game hero John Whittleman (’06-’07) has been shipped to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for a player to be named later.  That’s according to multiple sources, cited in an email I received from The Newberg Report.  Whittleman, a second-round pick in ’05, struggled in ’06 but was an All-Star with the Kings in ’07.  He remains the only active LumberKing ever to participate in an MLB All-Star Futures Game, something I covered earlier this offseason in an edition of The Interview Vault.  If the reports are true, it’s a fresh start for Whit in the deepest Minor League system in baseball.  He’s always been a favorite of mine, I hope this works out well for him.

As you can tell, I’m working late on a Friday night yet again.  Such is life this close to the baseball season.  We’re about 13 days and 15 minutes away from the first pitch.

-DL

Kings in Spring (March 25)

Well, it was nice to finally catch the Mariners in Cactus League action, even though it was from the dusty office TV as they played the Chicago Cubs on WGN rather than from my favorite seat down the left-field line at the Peoria Sports Complex.  Still, it was nice to get a look at right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen (’10) in the #73 uni…aside for a minor hiccup in the way of a Blake DeWitt solo homer, he looked pretty comfortable in two innings of relief work.  Wilhelmsen and Justin Smoak (’08), who went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, look like locks to make the Opening Day roster to me.

Another funny note from the game, former LumberKings infielder Kyle Seager (’09) got into the action at third base, wearing #92 with no nameplate.  The 90′s numbers are normally given to the Minor League players called up to the big-league game for the day, but apparently that number was originally intended for Mario Martinez.  As a result, Cubs’ broadcaster Len Kasper referred to Seager as Martinez for a couple defensive plays and a full at-bat.  I doubt anyone aside from me, the Seager family and a few other Clintonites noticed or cared.

I didn’t catch the entire game, but Denny Almonte (’09) also made a cameo appearance, grounding out on one pitch in his lone at-bat.

In Texas Rangers news, and certainly a note not to be lost in the mix, it appears that former LumberKings’ third-baseman and one-time Futures Game hero John Whittleman (’06-’07) has been shipped to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for a player to be named later.  That’s according to multiple sources, cited in an email I received from The Newberg Report.  Whittleman, a second-round pick in ’05, struggled in ’06 but was an All-Star with the Kings in ’07.  He remains the only active LumberKing ever to participate in an MLB All-Star Futures Game, something I covered earlier this offseason in an edition of The Interview Vault.  If the reports are true, it’s a fresh start for Whit in the deepest Minor League system in baseball.  He’s always been a favorite of mine, I hope this works out well for him.

As you can tell, I’m working late on a Friday night yet again.  Such is life this close to the baseball season.  We’re about 13 days and 15 minutes away from the first pitch.

-DL

Kings in Spring (March 24)

According to Jamey Newberg at “The Newberg Report“, the Texas Rangers have set their starting rotation for the season.  One LumberKing has made the cut, while another has not.

Left-hander Derek Holland (’08) is back in the rotation thanks to solid Cactus League numbers (2-0, 3.21 ERA, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts in 4 outings, 14.0 innings)…he’ll join C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Tommy Hunter and Matt Harrison in the rotation, according to Newberg’s post.

That means right-hander and last year’s AL Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz (’08) is back in the bullpen as the Rangers’ closer.  Feliz was 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in four Spring outings, including three starts.  Last year, he saved 40 games in 43 chances while going 4-3 with a 2.73 ERA in 70 outings.

-DL

Kings in Spring (March 23)

Go figure.  I express my surprise in catcher Steven Baron (’10) remaining in Mariners’ Major League camp yesterday and today, he’s re-assigned to Minor League camp.

That leaves first-baseman Justin Smoak (’08) and right-handers Josh Lueke (’07-’08) and Tom Wilhelmsen (’10) as the only former LumberKings remaining on Seattle’s roster.  All three now look like they have a legitimate shot to be on the Opening Day roster.

-DL

Kings in Spring (March 22)

In today’s 9-5 Mariners victory over the Chicago White Sox in Peoria, right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen (’10) struck out all three batters he faced — Brent Morel, ageless-wonder Omar Vizquel and Brent Lillibridge – in a perfect seventh inning.  Even more intriguing, his catcher was Steven Baron (’10).

I figured on Wilhelmsen staying in camp this late with a potential shot to make the 25-man roster as a reliever, but the fact that the 20-year-old backstop Baron is still with the big club makes me wonder if he isn’t bound for High Desert or even higher.  Baron, who struggled offensively in his first taste of the Midwest League last season, is hitting .667 (6-for-9) with a double, home run and two RBI in nine Cactus League games.  Yes, it’s Spring Training, but it’s also impressive that he’s stuck in camp this long alongside a host of experienced catchers fighting for a roster spot (Adam Moore, Miguel Olivo, Josh Bard, etc.).  We’ll see what this experience means for the 2009 supplemental first-round pick.

That’s all for now.

-DL

Kings in Spring (March 19)

The Texas Rangers announced several roster moves involving former LumberKings today as they sent right-hander Eric Hurley (’05) to the AAA Round Rock roster, plus 1B/OF Chad Tracy (’07) and catcher Jose Felix (’08) to the AA Frisco roster.

The Rangers meet the Seattle Mariners in Surprise, AZ today.  Ian Kinsler (’04) and Mitch Moreland (’08) bookend the starting lineup for Texas, while Justin Smoak (’08) hits fifth for the Mariners.  Most notably in this game, right-hander Neftali Feliz (’08) makes the start for the Rangers in what will possibly be his last outing before Texas brass decide if he’ll remain the closer or join the rotation. 

-DL

Kings in Spring (March 14)

This may be old news to some, but I was back home in Milwaukee and unable to post it until now.  Right-hander Blake Beavan (’08) made his first Spring start as a Mariner on Saturday against Oakland and earned the win, limiting the Athletics to a run on three hits over 3.0 innings.  Shortly thereafter, Beavan was re-assigned to Minor League camp.  Right-hander Yoervis Medina (’10) also saw his time in big-league camp end as he was optioned to the High Desert spring roster.

In that Beavan start, a 10-2 win over the A’s, first-baseman Justin Smoak (’08) finally woke up his bat with a 2-for-2 game including a two-out two-run single in the fourth inning and a two-run homer to left-center in the sixth.  The blast was Smoak’s first in Cactus League action.

The Mariners’ roster still includes Smoak, right-handers Josh Lueke (’07-’08) and Tom Wilhelmsen (’10) and catcher Steven Baron (’10) at this time.  I have to say, I’m still surprised Baron is there.

Over in Surprise, the Texas Rangers sent outfielder Engel Beltre (’08), right-hander Fabio Castillo (’08) and left-hander Zach Phillips (’06-’07) back to Minor League camp on Saturday.

Continuing with Rangers camp, Ian Kinsler (’04) is hitting a healthy .367 with a .933 slugging percentage…the former Clinton infielder has a team-high five homers and nine RBI in 11 games.  While Chris Davis continues to assert his value to the team as a corner infielder, Mitch Moreland (’08) keeps fighting to hold onto the first-base spot…he’s hitting .375 with a .719 slugging percentage, five doubles, two home runs and seven RBI in 12 games.  Aside from catcher Jose Felix (’08), who is 5-for-5 with a double in big-league action, the group of former Kings that includes Chad Tracy (’07), Craig Gentry (’07), Marcus Lemon (’07) and others has been largely quiet offensively.

Left-hander Derek Holland (’08) is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA, no walks and six strikeouts in his two starts, totaling 5.0 innings.  Right-hander Neftali Feliz (’08) has pitched just twice in camp, including one start…the flamethrower has not allowed an earned run over 5.0 innings, but has walked three and has hit a batter in that span.  Lefty Michael Kirkman is carrying a 3.00 ERA in three outings and has struck out eight over 9.0 innings.

Scanning other camps, outfielder John Mayberry Jr. (’06) continues to look impressive in a bid for a roster spot with the Philadelphia Phillies…he’s hitting .324 with three doubles, four homers and nine RBI in 14 games.  Right-hander Maikel Cleto (’09) has had two outings with the St. Louis Cardinals and is 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA, one save, four walks, three strikeouts and a home run allowed over 4.0 innings.  Right-hander Thomas Diamond (’04) is 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA over four relief outings as he attemps to make the Chicago Cubs’ Opening Day roster.  Catcher Manny Pina (’07) and outfielder Tim Smith (’08) have both seen minor action in Kansas City Royals’ camp…Pina is 4-for-16 (.250) with a home run and three RBI in 10 games, while Smith is hitless in two at-bats. 

There’s plenty more players to track, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

-DL

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.