Happy new year! We’ve turned the corner into 2023, and now we can see spring training on the horizon, with the knowledge that Opening Night at Cheney Stadium won’t be far behind.
Pitchers and catchers report to Mariners spring training on February 16, with the full squad required to arrive February 21st. Minor league spring training typically starts around March 1, although many minor league players arrive earlier than that. The World Baseball Classic will be happening this March, so that will impact spring training as every team will have a handful of players involved in the WBC.
Most of the Tacoma Rainiers players get invited to major league spring training, so they’ll be getting started in February. The Mariners have signed a handful of free agents to minor league contracts, with major league spring training invitations, and these players are likely to open the season with Tacoma if they do not make the major league roster.
Corner infielder Colin Moran is the biggest name of the group so far this year. Moran has been a starting third baseman in the major leagues, playing in 502 career big league games mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Moran did spend half of the 2022 season with Triple-A Louisville, which is an indication that he may agree to play for Tacoma and await his next major league opportunity if he doesn’t make the Mariners opening day roster. Colin’s brother Brian is a left-handed pitcher who played for Tacoma in 2012 and 2013, and more recently appeared at Cheney Stadium with visiting teams.
The Mariners have brought back Rainiers catcher Brian O’Keefe, marking the second straight winter in which O’Keefe re-signed with Seattle. O’Keefe made his major league debut last September and got his first career hit, which probably influenced his decision to stay with the organization. We’ll happily take him in Tacoma, of course.
New to the catching mix is veteran Jacob Nottingham, who the Mariners brought back to the organization on a minor league contract. Nottingham was the subject of a hilarious waiver wire battle with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2021, getting transferred between the teams three times (note: it probably wasn’t very funny to him). He eventually landed with the Rainiers, pulled an oblique in his first plate appearance and was out for the season. He was healthy in 2022 and played for Norfolk in the International League, hitting 15 homers with a .758 OPS.
We’ve got some pitchers in the fold, too. Veteran left-hander Tommy Milone was re-signed on a minor league contract, he’s always solid in Triple-A and able to fill in at the next level when needed. Reliever Casey Sadler will be in camp on a minor league deal, he missed all of 2022 with a shoulder injury but had success in the majors before that, and if healthy he should help Tacoma and possibly Seattle.
Two Triple-A pitchers new to the organization are Jose Rodriguez and Ryder Ryan. Rodriguez is a swing-man who can start or relieve, and he has a bit of major league experience with the Angels in 2019 and 2020 (ten total appearances). Ryan is a reliever who amassed PCL experience the past two years pitching for Round Rock – last year he has a 3.64 ERA in 47 games.
There will be more minor league free agents signed as opening day draws near. Late additions in Triple-A have been a hallmark of the Dipoto-era Mariners.
We’ve caught wind of several regulars from the 2022 Tacoma Rainiers landing with new teams on minor league free agent contracts. Each has been invited to big league spring training.
- LHP Roenis Elias – Chicago Cubs
- RHP Matt Koch and LHP Fernando Abad – Colorado Rockies (both could play for Albuquerque in the PCL)
- INF Kevin Padlo – Los Angeles Angels (could play for Salt Lake)
- LHP Nick Ramirez – New York Yankees
OK, so who is going to run this team? Good question – we expect the Seattle Mariners to announce their minor league coaching staffs very soon.
We can expect a new manager and pitching coach. While there has been no official announcement, last year’s Rainiers manager Tim Federowicz said that in 2023 he wants to work closer to his North Carolina home (where he has two young children), so we will have a new skipper as a result. Furthermore, 2022 pitching coach Alon Leichman was pilfered away by the Cincinnati Reds, who promoted him to their major league coaching staff.
I’m told that these major hires have already been made, but we’ll wait for the official announcement from the team which should come any day now.
- A Seattle Times story on the Mariners surplus of starting pitching includes a projected Tacoma rotation.
- The Mariners have agreed to sign veteran outfielder A.J. Pollock.
- Prior to the Pollock signing, the Seattle Times has an article on what the Mariners roster would look like if the season started today.
- Relief pitcher Justin Topa was acquired in a trade for a Class-A pitcher, and he has a chance to be with the Rainiers this season.
- MiLB.com released an “organization all-star team” for the 2022 Mariners, and Tacoma’s Mason McCoy was the selection at shortstop. Several players we expect to see in Tacoma this year make appearances.
- The Mariners announced that they are going to induct former Rainiers star Felix Hernandez into the team’s hall of fame.
- This happened over a month ago, but Tacoma Giants legend and baseball Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry passed away at the age of 84. Here’s his New York Times obituary.
- In PCL executive news, the president of the Reno Aces Eric Edelstein is stepping down to work in city government. Chris Phillips was named the Aces new General Manager.