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Curto at the Cactus League - Day 2

March 25, 2008

Tuesday March 25

Today is my second day of four at the Tacoma Rainiers spring training camp - which takes place in the complex behind the Seattle Mariners main spring training stadium in Peoria, Arizona.

Today the M's Triple-A club played the Oklahoma RedHawks - Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. The game was supposed to be played at the Rangers facility in Surprise, but I received a phone call from manager Daren Brown telling me the game had been moved to the Mariners facility. It turns out that a few of the Mariners major league relief pitchers needed to get some work in this game, so the Mariners asked to play it at home and the Rangers agreed. The Rangers loaded up a couple of plain white 15-passenger vans and made the 10-mile drive to Peoria.

Ryan Rowland-Smith pitched the first two innings for Tacoma, allowing a couple runs. Brendan Morrow pitched the third inning - but it turned into a disaster. He allowed six runs, including a long 3-run homer to a Rangers minor leaguer wearing uniform number 81. Morrow reached his pitch limit with two outs and runners at second and third - and we got an only-in-minor-league-spring-training moment: Daren Brown looked at the Oklahoma manager and said "that's enough," and the two teams switched sides as if the third out was recorded and the inning was over.

Needless to say, Oklahoma won easily. I think the final was 9-4 but it can be hard to tell without a scoreboard. Here are some quick-hit observations to prepare you for Rainiers Opening Day coming up on April 3:

  • It looks like Bronson Sardinha is going to inherit Adam Jones' spot in center field. Sardinha was the Yankees #1 draft pick in 2001, out of a high school in Hawaii. Sardinha pulled a double down the right field line, launched a homer to right-center, and made a nice catch going back on a ball in deep center today. Sardinha is 24 yrs old, he made his Major League debut with the Yankees last year, and the M's signed him as a minor league free agent last November. His middle name is Kiheimahanaomauiakeo, which obviously will be the subject of a pre-game interview this season ("How do you pronounce that? Can you spell your own full name? What does your drivers license look like? Can I see it?").

  • Andy Baldwin is a good sleeper candidate to make the Rainiers starting rotation. Baldwin is an Oregon State alumnus who pitched at Double-A West Tennessee last year. Baldwin is a control pitcher who allows a lot of fly balls - which will be great at Cheney Stadium, but could be problematic in the bandboxes on the road in the PCL. Baldwin was acquired from the Phillies in the Jamie Moyer trade a couple years ago. Today he pitched five innings, allowing just one run.

  • Who do you think is going to be the Rainiers opening day starter? I asked pitching coach Dwight Bernard, but he did not want to say because he has not told the players yet. Right now I'm guessing either Ryan Feierabend or Robert Rohrbaugh.

  • I ran into Denny Stark today. He's trying to make a comeback after not pitching the last two years - a story recently written by John McGrath in The News Tribune. Rainiers fans will recall that Stark was the ace of the 2001 championship squad, going 14-2 while winning the PCL Pitcher of the Year award. He was then traded to Colorado along with Brian Fuentes in the ill-fated Jeff Cirillo trade. Sorry I had to bring that up. Anyway, Stark told me that his arm is all the way back. Stark has always been a class act and I'm hoping he makes the team.

  • Made my second visit to In N Out (in two days). The record is five trips in four days, set by ex-Rainiers general manager Dave Lewis in 2002. That included a now legendary "lapping" of the drive-thru: going through one time, eating the burger in the parking lot, and immediately going back through again, much to the amusement of the girl working in the window. "Lapping" the In N Out drive-thru should not be attempted by amateurs, vegetarians, or the weak-stomached.

Well that's it for now. I know I promised to talk about the Mariners apparent change in philosophy regarding signing veteran Triple-A players, but that's going to have to wait until Wednesday. It's off to dinner with Daren Brown, and he wants to go to Padre Murphy's - an Irish pub with off-track dog-race betting, always popular with Northwest baseball managers: both Lou Piniella and Dan Rohn could often be found there.

Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers. Catch Rainiers baseball on FoxSports 850 AM, also streaming live via this website.