It’s finally here! Tacoma Rainiers 2023 opening day is today, with the team starting the season on the road at the Oklahoma City Dodgers.
After two days of workouts at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, the Rainiers flew to Oklahoma City yesterday to be ready for the opening game. It’s just a three-game series here – the team returns home on Sunday night and will host Reno in the home opener on Tuesday.
Tonight’s game starts at 5:05 (Pacific). My radio broadcast will be streaming via the link down below, and subscribers to MLB.TV or MiLB At-Bat will be able to watch the telecast from the Oklahoma City broadcaster.
So, let’s go. Who’s on this team, anyway?
TACOMA OPENING DAY ROSTER
Pitchers: Brennan Bernardino, Nolan Blackwood, JB Bukauskas, Taylor Dollard, Darren McCaughan, Easton McGee, Tommy Milone, Riley O’Brien, Jose Rodriguez, Tayler Saucedo, Justus Sheffield, Gabe Speier, Justin Topa, Blake Weiman, Taylor Williams.
Catchers: Jacob Nottingham. Brian O’Keefe.
Infielders: Jose Caballero, Mike Ford, Mason McCoy, Colin Moran, Jake Scheiner, Pat Valaika, Evan White, Kean Wong.
Outfielders: Zach DeLoach, Delino DeShields.
Astute readers will note that two outfielders leaves us one short of the norm. Several of the infielders can also play outfield. Furthermore, injured outfielders Cade Marlowe and Taylor Trammell are reportedly not too far away from returning.
For the first time since before the pandemic, Tacoma breaks camp with a starting rotation. While things are always fluid and can change, it appears that the rotation will fall in line like this:
- FRI: Darren McCaughan
- SAT: Easton McGee
- SUN: Taylor Dollard
- TUE: Tommy Milone (home opener)
- WED: Jose Rodriguez
There is a possibility of “openers” being used in the first inning, but the above pitchers should take the bulk of the innings on each day.
McCaughan goes tonight. It’s the second straight opening day start for McCaughan – the last Tacoma pitcher to make opening day starts in consecutive seasons was Ken Cloude in 1999 and 2000.
John Russell will make his Tacoma managerial debut tonight in his hometown. The lifelong baseball man was born in Oklahoma City, attended high school in nearby Norman, and played college baseball for the University of Oklahoma.
Suffice to say, he should have some friends and family in attendance tonight.
A former major league manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and eight-year bench coach for Buck Showalter in Baltimore, tonight Russell is managing his first PCL game since 2002. He’s going to find that the league has changed a little over the last 20 years – starting with the fact that the team that he managed in 2002, Edmonton, doesn’t even exist anymore!
Major League Baseball – which now runs the minor leagues – announced the Triple-A playoff format for 2023. It’s different from each of the last two years, making it three different playoff scenarios in three years for the Pacific Coast League since MLB took control.
This year we are going back to the 1990s with a split-season format. The last time we did this was 1997.
There will not be divisions in the PCL this year – just one ten-team league. Whichever team has the best record on June 25 will be named First Half Champion and will host a postseason best-of-three league championship series against the Second Half Champion. On June 28, the records revert to 0-0 for everyone and we play the second half (note: individual statistics do not get split up, they count for the full season like usual, only team won-loss records reset). The official release does not say what will happen if the same team wins both halves.
After the best-of-three PCL Championship Series, the winner will play a one-game Triple-A National Championship Game against the winner of the International League. Like last year, that game will be played at Las Vegas Ballpark.
Making our little ten-team league into a one division, split season format isn’t bad. I’m not sure I like it, but it’s not bad. But over in the International League they will have 20 teams in one division with only the winner of each half making the playoffs – that’s kind of brutal, and doesn’t make much sense to me.
Hey, it’s time for our first gameday box of the year!
YESTERDAY: The Rainiers flew from Tacoma to Oklahoma City, checked into the hotel, got a decent meal and a good night’s sleep. Starting tomorrow we’ll provide a brief recap of the last game in this space.
TODAY: Tacoma Rainiers (0-0) at Oklahoma City Dodgers (0-0), 5:05 (Pacific).
OPPONENT AFFILIATION: Los Angeles Dodgers.
OPPOSING MANAGER: Travis Barbary.
SEASON SERIES: 0-0.
PITCHERS: RHP Darren McCaughan (0-0, 0.00) at RHP Gavin Stone (0-0, 0.00)
McCaughan had a great year for Tacoma in 2022, leading the PCL in strikeouts and innings pitched while finishing second in ERA. Stone, a rising prospect, led all of minor league baseball in ERA while pitching for three different teams in the Dodgers organization.
ROSTER MOVES: We’ll update the latest roster moves in this space. The opening day roster is listed above – there was one late addition. Reliever Nolan Blackwood was just signed after being released from Twins spring training camp, he’s a Triple-A reliever who spent the last two seasons with Toledo in the IL.
HOT HITTERS: Everyone starts the season batting 1.000. Or is it .000? Is your glass half full or half empty?
OPPONENT NEWS: Oklahoma City had a really good season last year, but with no payoff: they went 84-66 and lost the division by one game to El Paso… the Dodgers got Triple-A’d on opening night: their listed starting pitcher Michael Grove was called up by LA yesterday, but apparently they were prepared for it because they were able to bump their original No. 3 starter Gavin Stone up to today… other than Stone, the top prospect on the Oklahoma City roster is infielder Michael Busch, who lost a LA Dodgers spring training position battle to Miguel Vargas… Oklahoma City has two former Rainiers: reliever Tayler Scott, and catcher David Freitas.
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.
- Know your enemy: here’s a Dodgers preview from The Daily Oklahoman, as well as a very bland interview with Oklahoma City starting pitcher Gavin Stone.
- We have PCL team previews in the local newspapers from El Paso, Albuquerque, and Las Vegas.
- Here’s the story from MiLB.com on this year’s playoff plan.
- Today is only opening day at the Triple-A level – the lower levels of the minors open over the next few days. MLB.com has a Triple-A Opening Day information post, and a list of the Top Triple-A Prospect for all 30 teams.
- The Mariners set their opening day roster. In the story, manager Scott Servais named three relievers sent to Tacoma who really stood out to him.
- Seattle won its opener over Cleveland, 3-0, as Luis Castillo pitched six shutout innings and Ty France homered. The fans impacted the game, Larry Stone writes.
- Adam Jude has an article on the marketing of Julio Rodriguez. It’s all Julio’s world and we’re just living in it, Ryan Divish writes.
- Larry Stone’s preseason column wonders if the Mariners can reach the World Series.
- Fun story on Cooper Hummel living out his childhood dream by playing for the Mariners.
- One thing that could dash the Mariners hopes this season: sophomore slumps.
- Still in Peoria after the majors leaguers and most of the minor leaguers had shipped out, Ryan Divish wandered off to the back fields and got a look at 17-year-old prospect Felnin Celesten.
- The News Tribune has a Mariners preseason round-up for the casual fan. Not sure we get many casual fans reading this Rainiers blog, lol.
- The newly unionized minor league players have struck a deal with owners.
- In the PCL, Fernando Tatis Jr. is going to open the season with El Paso on a rehabilitation assignment. El Paso plays at Tacoma starting April 18th, and Tatis is eligible for reinstatement on April 20 – it’s not likely he would come up here for one game, but you never know.
- Retiring Salt Lake Bees broadcaster Steve Klauke reflected on his career.