Hey everyone, it’s finally here. It’s Opening Day in Tacoma, with the Pacific Coast League season getting started this evening. The Rainiers host the Salt Lake Bees tonight at 6:05 – hopefully you can make it out to Cheney Stadium and join us.
The Rainiers are reigning league champions. For one year only, the league was called “Triple-A West” but now we are back to the Pacific Coast League name, thank goodness. I think over time we’ll simply refer to the 2021 trophy as a PCL championship, since that’s what it was.
There are no changes to the make-up of the league: same ten teams, same ten cities. However, one team changed it’s name. Formerly the Sugar Land Skeeters, the Houston Astros affiliate is now known as the Sugar Land Space Cowboys. As long as they kept the Rally Sloth, I’m OK with it.
MLB decided it wants all of the Triple-A teams playing to the end of September, so the league is playing 150 games and the season wraps up on September 28. With a couple exceptions, Monday is a league-wide off day. No postseason has been announced, but it sounds like a very brief (and interesting!) postseason plan is going to be revealed at some point soon.
The Pacific Coast League is going to be a testing ground for the Automated Ball/Strike System, or “ABS,” or as we prefer to call it the Robot Umpires. That won’t be used tonight – the current plan is to implement the system starting May 17th, and don’t be surprised if there are further delays. This will be a big story when it goes into effect, and we will see it first-hand.
Speaking of the umpires, they are no longer tied to one league. They are now Triple-A Umpires and crews will work both the PCL and the International League. This is a positive – we were seeing the same umpires way too frequently last year, when just five crews worked the entire PCL season.
We have a roster for tonight’s game. As we discussed in the previous blog post, the Rainiers true team is not entirely here. The Mariners are still playing exhibition games in Arizona and have not done their final cuts yet. So, we have a handful of players who are slated to start the season at Advanced-A Everett here tonight (and presumably tomorrow) to provide depth. The Aqua Sox open on Friday, so a couple days with Tacoma will be a good experience for these kids. I’ve used italics to distinguish the Everett players.
PITCHERS: Jarod Bayless, Kyle Bird, Kyle Hill, Matt Koch, Nick Margevicius, Darren McCaughan, Ian McKinney, Penn Murfee, Fred Villarreal, Austin Warner, Patrick Weigel, Asher Wojciechowski, Danny Young.
CATCHERS: Josh Morgan, Joe Odom, Andy Thomas.
INFIELDERS: Mike Ford, Zach Green, Sam Haggerty, Erick Mejia, Kevin Padlo, James Parker, Donovan Walton.
OUTFIELDERS: Spencer Packard, Taylor Trammell, Forrest Wall, Marcus Wilson.
Mike Ford and Donovan Walton were both assigned to Tacoma yesterday afternoon and are in transit from Arizona today – they may not be able to play tonight. Also of note, two recently signed veteran pitchers are no longer part of the organization: Tommy Milone and Sal Romano.
We also have an all-new coaching staff, which includes two former Rainiers players of recent vintage.
Manager: Tim Federowicz
Pitching Coach: Alon Leichman
Hitting Coach: Brad Marcelino
Bench Coaches: Zach Vincej, Seth Mejias-Brean
Vincej and Mejias-Brean are both former Tacoma players. Vincej was the Rainiers starting shortstop in 2018, and Mejias-Brean was the regular third baseman most of that season. Basically, we’ve brought back the left side of the 2018 Rainiers infield as coaches.
This, of course, is the managerial debut for Federowicz. Let’s see if he can get a win in his first game!
All games will be broadcast for free online, streaming at wertacoma.com/broadcast. You can also subscribe to MiLB.tv for a streaming telecast of every game, home and away. The subscription includes access to games throughout the minor leagues for one price.
Once again, Tacoma Rainiers games are not currently available on traditional radio. There is no longer a Tacoma radio station with live programming – the only Tacoma frequencies are entirely automated with national programming, and they refuse to interrupt it. The Seattle and Olympia stations are asking for ridiculous amounts of money to air our games. The Rainiers front office continues to work on it, but has not been able to find a partner.
TODAY: Salt Lake Bees (0-0) at Tacoma Rainiers (0-0), 6:15 PT.
OPPONENT AFFILIATION: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
OPPOSING MANAGER: Lou Marson.
SEASON SERIES: 0-0.
PITCHERS: RHP Janson Junk (0-0, 0.00) at RHP Darren McCaughan (0-0, 0.00)
McCaughan was much improved for Tacoma in 2021, going 5-4, 4.53. He even made his MLB debut, pitching in two games for Seattle. McCaughan says he is fully stretched out and ready to go 100 pitches if they’ll let him.
Junk is a local getting the start for Salt Lake. He graduated from Decatur High School in Federal Way in 2014, then pitched three years for Seattle U. He was drafted by the Yankees and traded to the Angels, and he made his MLB debut for Anaheim last year. This will be his first professional appearance at Cheney Stadium, and we can assume he’ll have some fans on hand.
ROSTER MOVES: The moves are going to be coming fast-and-furious the next couple days as the Mariners whittle the roster down for their opening day on Thursday.
HOT HITTERS: Everyone is batting .000 on opening day. Or is everyone batting 1.000 on opening day? Is your glass half-empty or half-full?
OPPONENT NEWS: In addition to the local product Janson Junk, Salt Lake has two members of the 2021 league champion Tacoma Rainiers on its roster: outfielder Dillon Thomas, and reliever Zack Weiss. Also, former Rainiers reliever Jonathan Aro is with the Bees.
BROADCAST: All games will be broadcast free on a live audio stream which is available right here.
Unfortunately, there is no traditional terrestrial radio station carrying the games at this time.
PCL SCOREBOARD: Follow all league games in real-time with links to broadcasts and Gameday screens right here.
- The News Tribune has a round-up of the Rainiers weekend workouts as the team prepped for opening day.
- In case you didn’t see it, this very website has an article on new Rainiers manager Tim Federowicz.
- Well, it’s settled. Julio Rodriguez has made the Mariners opening day roster. Ultimately, he had a big spring training and easily made the team.
- In this Seattle Times notebook, we learn that Rainiers reliever Joey Gerber is making progress recovering from a forearm strain, and that Roenis Elias is likely to be on a mound soon – possibly for the Rainiers.
- The Mariners named rookie Matt Brash their No. 5 starter, and sent his competition George Kirby to Double-A Arkansas. Kirby is a top prospect, but he’s only pitched six games (and just 26 innings) at the Double-A level, so we won’t see him in Tacoma for a bit.
- Larry Stone thinks that this is the year that the Mariners playoff drought ends, and Matt Calkins has a to-do list to make that happen. That’s just two stories from the Times webpage today, which has their Mariners preview package all online – you can dig in and read for a while.
- Know your enemies: a Reno Aces preview article (sorry, you are no longer permitted to vape at Greater Nevada Field), the Las Vegas Aviators have a top prospect behind the plate, five things to know about the Oklahoma City Dodgers, former Mariners coach and Olympia native Jared Sandberg is managing the El Paso Chihuahuas.