Foppert Getting Closer to One Hundred Percent

A Giant Comeback for New M's Pitcher? (AP)

TACOMA, Wash. - For Jesse Foppert, getting started as a member of the Seattle Mariners organization has been a pain in the neck.

Literally.

Foppert's first appearance as a Rainier was delayed for nearly two weeks because of a neck injury, and his first two appearances have been limited to only one inning.

All these precautions, just for a neck injury?

"It's just a strained muscle that just wouldn't relax," Foppert explained. "And it was affecting my shoulder."

The 25-year-old right handed pitcher was acquired by the Mariners at the trading deadline with catcher Yorvit Torrealba from the Giants for outfielder Randy Winn. After a couple of weeks of treatment on the injured neck, Foppert is ready to contribute to the first-place Rainiers.

"It feels great," Foppert said. "Rob [Nodine, Rainiers trainer] has been doing a great job on it."

Foppert is no stranger to the process of recovering from an injury. While with the Giants in 2003, he tore a ligament in his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. Before the injury ,Foppert was regarded as the Giants best pitching prospect, and one of the top pitching prospects in the game. If the 25-year-old can fully recover and repeat his rise through the minor leagues in the Mariners system, the trade will be considered a steal.

In his two limited appearances so far, Foppert has allowed two hits and two walks, with one strikeout. But Jesse has shown signs of fulfilling his promise with good velocity on his fastball.

"I felt better the second time than I did the first," Foppert says. "And my arm's starting to feel a lot better."

Foppert is scheduled to pitch two innings on Thursday as part of the recovery process. As he continues to improve, Foppert should contribute as a starter for the Rainiers as they pursue a playoff berth. In allowing the former Giant to start games while he's recovering, the Rainiers hope to make the transition as smooth as possible.

"Since they're letting me start these games I can prepare for it like any other start," Foppert explains.

For a team like the Mariners, who have been dying for quality starting pitching all year, a healthy Jesse Foppert could make a considerable impact. Foppert figures to have a good chance of making the starting rotation as early as next year. If that can happen, the only neck pains around Jesse Foppert could be the ones suffered by hitters by watching his fastball sink into the catcher's glove.


Pennant Fever:
Tacoma Rainiers skipper Dan Rohn is making a bid to win his third manager of the year award as he guides his club toward a playoff berth. Almost identical to last season, the Rainiers have made over 200 transactions this season, already exceeding the 174 made in 2004. Rohn takes it one day at a time and makes the best of it.

"We roll with the team we've got." said Rohn. "It's not new to us here, but it's still tough. But that's the way it is and this club is handling it well. I like this group a lot."

Match-up:
The Rainiers are in a first-place tie with the Salt Lake Stingers (LAA), a similar position at this point in the season last August, when they were neck and neck with the Portland Beavers (SD). In 2004 the recipe for success was solid relief work and the power supplied by the likes of A.J. Zapp. This time around the Rainiers are better equipped to handle the pennant race and are doing so with solid efforts versus both left-handers and right-handers – offensively and at the plate.

Tacoma is hitting .274 as a team, .271/.348/.420 versus righties and .279/.353/.414 versus lefties. Rainiers pitchers are holding right-handed hitters to a .269 average and lefties to a .252 mark.

What a Relief?:
Right-hander Clint Nageotte is enjoying his return to the mound, even though the bullpen isn't his favorite place on the baseball field. The 24-year-old just wants to pitch - start, close, middle relief, setup, whatever it takes.

"I don't care one way or the other," said Nageotte. "But I would like to get into more games. It's tough to pitch twice a week and stay sharp."

The Mariners have not ruled out a return to the starting rotation for Nageotte in the future, but feel his arsenal is best used in the bullpen.

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