Mariners Minors Transaction Update: May 15-31

The rosters keep shuffling and the injury bug continues to bite down on the farm. InsidethePark.com's "transaction guy," Joseph A. Yencich, provides a thorough summary of all the player movement in the Mariners minor league system from May 15-31.

TACOMA

May 15

  • LHP Tim Rall called up to Tacoma

  • RHP Albie Lopez released

  • Even though Rall had already spent over a year with the San Antonio Missions, his call-up was less the reward for exceptional pitching and more the Rainiers unexpected need for another pitcher. After five runs in five innings, Rall was sent packing for the Texas League again. The 25-year-old had a 4.57 ERA in 65 innings last year with a walk rate that's a little higher than one would like from a reliever. The same trend has repeated this year, as Rall has walked 10 batters in just under 14 innings.

    Here's a free tip for all you aspiring minor leaguers out there: if you want to stick with the team you're on, make the road trips or at least have a strong case as to why you shouldn't. While no reason has gone public, the fact is, Lopez missed the trip to Albuquerque after spending a good chunk of time on the DL. Without many positives to take from the few appearances he did make, the Rainiers opted to release him.

    May 17

  • LHP George Sherrill optioned to Tacoma

  • RHP Jorge Campillo called up to Seattle

  • In the last transaction piece, I was convinced that the Mariners had finally seen the light and were going to bring Sherrill up long-term. Manager Mike Hargrove brought him in to face Tino Martinez, who was at the time probably the hottest hitter in the league. Sherrill induced a ground ball that should have been a DP, and was pulled after that. I probably shouldn't remind you what happened next. After the game, Sherrill was sent packing, and while in Tacoma, he bumped up his strikeouts per nine innings to an absurd 13.5. But then, in a May 25th game, he strained a lat and a triceps muscle and is out for the next three weeks. Who says the minor leagues are safer?

    While Sherrill only got a third of an inning in his stint, Campillo worked his promotion for a full inning's worth, which is impressive compared to the other call-ups. The Mexican right-hander debuted against the Padres on May 20th, working the ninth inning, allowing a walk and striking out a batter. Three days later, he was back in the rotation for the Rainiers, but how much more he can learn at that level of competition is hard to tell. Also unknown is whether he'll be in the major league rotation, or whether he'll be a setup man, as some rumors hint at.

    May 20

  • C Pat Borders acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers (cash considerations)

  • C Pat Borders selected by Seattle

  • It was bad enough to lose one catcher on the major league roster for an extended period of time, but losing two is just crazy. With a limited number of in-house candidates capable of filling the job, the Mariners instead opted to acquire the services of Borders, who had three-and-a-half years in Tacoma before signing on with the Brewers this winter. Though his offensive abilities are now negligible, at best, he is among the most experience catchers still playing in the major leagues, and can still call a good game. Whether he'll stick with the team when Wiki Gonzalez returns remains to be seen, but with how the pitching staff has been performing when he's behind the plate, the odds are good.

    May 23

  • RHP Jeff Harris called up to Tacoma

  • LHP Tim Rall sent to San Antonio

  • 2B Jose Lopez placed on the disabled list

  • IF Eric Blakeley called up from Inland Empire

  • A veteran of about 10 years in the minor leagues, including a side trip to China to help them set up their own professional baseball league, Harris has been just about everywhere. He is now in his second tour in Tacoma, after joining the team late last season after he was signed out of an independent league. The promotion is certainly deserved, as he was nothing short of incredible with the Missions early in the season. Most notable was the spot start he made on the 20th where he four-hit Corpus Christi over seven innings, on just two days' rest. That seemed to seal the promotion for him.

    Just five days after coming back from one wrist injury, Lopez is on the DL with another. He jammed his left hand while checking his swing in a game. Originally, it was thought to be a day-to-day injury, but when it wasn't getting any better and his right wrist, which had surgery to remove the hamate bone earlier in the year, was still barking at him anyway, they decided to let him rest. He should be ready by the time the 14-day limit passes.

    Blakeley, like the other fill-ins on the Rainiers roster this season, wasn't brought up to play the position everyday, but to provide the bench with some flexibility in case they come up short as a result. Versatility is definitely something Blakeley has, as he's capable of playing all the infield positions and a little outfield on the side. He was batting .263/.323/.509 in 14 games with Inland Empire prior to being called up, but he also filled a similar role for San Antonio this year while Jesus Guzman was suspended.

    May 24

  • RHP Jorge Campillo optioned to Tacoma

  • RHP Joel Pineiro called up to Seattle

  • As was reported to be the situation in the local papers, Pineiro came up from Tacoma without getting into a single game. Instead, he spent the days working on his mechanics and trying to regain some of his velocity. In his first game back, he did have a little more juice to his fastball than in previous outings, but his control and his delivery were all over the place. His next few starts should give a better gauge on what direction he's headed.

    May 26

  • LHP George Sherrill placed on the DL

  • RHP Oliver Arias called up from extended spring training

  • Calling a pitcher up from extended spring training to fill in on a high-minors team can often be a learning experience for those involved. In his first Triple-A inning of his career, Arias learned to not hang pitches, as the Fresno hitters promptly clubbed two out of the park against him. Still, it's better than his last tour of duty with the team, where he merely sat on the bench for a few days and was sent on his way. He'll be gone again as soon as they find a suitable replacement.


    SAN ANTONIO

    May 22

  • C Rene Rivera optioned to San Antonio

  • C Luis Oliveros sent to Inland Empire

  • Like a few other minor leaguers, Rivera came back down from his trip to the big leagues without even an at-bat to show for it. That may not be so bad though, as it means more time for him to regularly work on polishing his craft in the minors. Rivera is the top catching prospect in the system, and is off to a good start with the Missions, but he still has some things in his game that he should be working on before he's considered as a viable option at the major league level.

    May 27

  • OF Jon Nelson placed on the disabled list

  • OF Casey Craig called up from extended spring training

  • Baseball can now add another story to its list of peculiar injuries. Nelson has been placed on the disabled list with a broken bone in his left hand. The cause? Frustrated by a 0-for-4 day, Nelson decided to take his frustrations out on an already-dented drinking fountain in Wolff Stadium. But rather than use a bat to do it, he used his fists. The final score on that one was "Water Fountain 1, Nelly 0," as posted on a sign now taped on the wall above it. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the quip.

    Now with just three players on the roster capable of playing in the outfield in Jaime Bubela, T.J. Bohn, and Gary Harris, it's possible that Craig might see a little more playing time than one might expect for a guy who was playing in a short-season league last year. He certainly didn't do much wrong in eight games with Inland Empire earlier in the month, batting .345/.406/.448 in the short span. Then again, this is definitely a temporary assignment, so the 20-year-old may not get enough playing time to prove much of anything. He still belongs on one of the full-season teams, though.


    INLAND EMPIRE

    May 18

  • LHP Shawn Nottingham placed on the disabled list

  • C Brian Schweiger called up from extended spring training

  • As if the Sixers didn't already have enough trouble with their starting rotation, the notorious flexor bundle has struck again. Nottingham, one of only two starters on the staff with an ERA under four, is going to be out of action for 4-to-6 weeks. He was pulled from a game on the 17th when he couldn't retire a batter to open the sixth, suffering from some pain in his elbow. While the MRI revealed no tears in the area, he will have to rest for a month to ensure that it doesn't develop into something more serious.

    Schweiger's brief call-up corresponds less with Nottingham going on the shelf than it does with a later move. The 22-year-old only got into one game with the Sixers, but he played for Cal State San Bernadino when he was in college, so he got to perform in front of a somewhat familiar crowd. He'll probably stick in his role as traveling catcher at least until Everett opens the season.

    May 20

  • C Justin Ruchti placed on the disabled list

  • RHP Aaron Looper reinstated from the disabled list

  • The real reason Schwieger was called up and a Musical Chairs of catching duties followed was due to a sore ankle that had been plaguing the regular backup catcher in Ruchti. Originally, it was thought that he would be able to return to action within a few days, but when it just didn't get any better, he had to put on the DL so that another pitcher could be brought in. The injury shouldn't be too serious, and Ruchti will probably return to action early next month.

    Looper's coming back from Tommy John surgery done early on last season, so chances are his velocity is going to take a little while to get back to its usual levels. He's done well so far, pitching four innings for the Sixers and striking out four, but barring any serious changes to the roster in the coming months, he is pretty far down the list if the Mariners are considering calling anyone up.

    May 22

  • C Luis Oliveros arrives from San Antonio

  • C Brian Schweiger sent to extended spring training

  • The suspension Oliveros served last season revolved around some suspicious circumstances that came up while he was in the Texas League, so it seems to make sense that the Mariners player development people would try to keep him away from there. The 21-year-old has the ability to be a starting catcher in the minors and maybe a backup in the big leagues, but he may not be getting that opportunity anymore, at least with the Mariners.

    May 25

  • OF Josh Ellison released

  • 2B Hyung Cho placed on the disabled list

  • 2B Michael Garciaparra reinstated from the disabled list

  • 3B Erick Monzon reinstated from the disabled list

  • On occasion, Ellison would show flashes of serious brilliance that would make you wonder whether he was a sleeper in the system. But all of this was tempered by his need to repeat each of the first two levels of play and various injuries that held him back. Last year, he started in Wisconsin and was off to an incredible start before injuring his neck and seeing his average drop to around .200. He ended up playing as a reserve outfielder for just about every team before settling in Everett at the end of the season. This season, he was out again, this time with a hernia, and was released before he could make an appearance.

    For the nature of the injury, the local press barely made a peep about Cho's landing on the disabled list. In the bottom of the first inning on May 24th, Cho got nailed in the mouth by an errant throw from catcher Chris Collins. He came out of the game immediately, and the wound required 15-20stitches to reseal. One can only imagine how much that one hurt.

    The younger Garciaparra tore his meniscus in late April and is right on track in his return from the knee surgery. Though he is repeating the level this season, he is off to a good start and was batting .300 when he went on the DL. Since coming back, he's gone 2-for-9 in two games, but if the previous years' injuries are any indicator he may not be able to keep it up.

    Monzon was another guy who was starting to heat up at the plate before he ended up on the bench. In the game on May 2nd, Monzon had three hits, but on his final one, a double to center field, he pulled his hamstring and had to be helped off the field. He's kept up the hot hitting in the two games since his return, going 6-for-9, including a four-hit performance in his first game back on Friday, but it does seem a little early to be coming back from a pull like that, so he'll have to be careful not to aggravate it.


    WISCONSIN

    May 25

  • RHP Roman Martinez placed on the disabled list

  • RHP Ivan Blanco called up from extended spring training

  • The report out of Appleton is that Martinez fractured his left wrist during a game against Clinton last Sunday. He was on the receiving end of that 8-15 loss, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts in just an inning and a third of work. While the nature of the injury and how it happened has not yet been revealed to the public, there have not been any reports filed concerning any innocent drinking fountains that were damaged in the process. (See; San Antonio above)

    Blanco made his U.S. debut last season in Everett, but it didn't go quite as smoothly as he might have liked. He came down with an injury partway through the brief season, and while he had 20 strikeouts in just 14.2 innings pitched, he had also given up 21 base hits. After resting most of the winter, Blanco was set to start the season in Everett again, but has now come on as an injury replacement in Wisconsin. Though his first appearance was in relief, walking one and striking out two in two frames of work, don't be surprised if he slips into the rotation at some point.

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