While the Major Leagues kicked off a week ago, things never quite seem right until there are minor league box scores to peruse as well. As of today, things will officially be right! As we speak, Charlotte is hosting Norfolk in the AAA International League to ring in the minor league season, and sixty more games will follow it throughout the rest of the day as things get kicked off in a big way.
The Mariners are no exception to the day’s festivities, with all four of their full-season squads playing their first games today. Let’s take a look at the first set of matchups, with the squad to get things underway being the Clinton LumberKings:
Burlington Bees (OAK) at Clinton LumberKings
Starting pitchers BUR: RHP Seth Frankoff CLI: RHP Forrest Snow
Start Time: 4:30 PM PST
Notes: This is Snow’s first professional start, after all 25 of his 2010 appearances came out of the bullpen. The big righty is a Seattle native and attended the University of Washington, which made him an instant fan favorite with the crowds in Everett last season, and he also did well after earning a promotion to Clinton after not allowing a single run over his 25 innings of work for the AquaSox. Snow has an interesting arsenal, and could become a promising prospect if his transition to the rotation goes well. If not, his stuff could allow him to fast-track his way up the ladder in the bullpen… Marcus Littlewood will be making his professional debut after being drafted in the second round last June, and while he’s listed on the team roster as a second baseman, the athletic 19 year old is naturally a shortstop and should see plenty of time there, as well as possibly some time at third now and again.
Jackson Generals at Mississippi Braves (ATL)
Starting pitchers JAC: LHP Anthony Vasquez MIS: RHP Randall Delgado
Start Time: 5:05 PM PST
Notes: This is a matchup between two promising pitchers, as Vasquez rocketed through three levels for the Mariners in 2010, and Delgado was ranked as the #3 prospect in the Braves organization by Baseball America, and #6 by Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus… This series should also feature an appearance by Mississippi left-hander Brett Oberholtzer, another one of the Braves’ many well-regarded pitching prospects… this will be the first game for the Mariners’ affiliate as the Jackson Generals, having played as the West Tennessee DiamondJaxx in recent years.
High Desert Maverics at Lancaster JetHawks (HOU)
Starting pitchers HD: TBA (as of last night) LAN: RHP Jose Cisnero
Start Time: 7:00 PST
Notes: While the Mav’s Opening Day starter had not yet been announced as of this writing, the most likely to be tapped should be Yoervis Medina, who received the same honors in last year with the Everett AquaSox en route to a solid 2010 campaign. If Medina doesn’t go, Taylor Stanton seems the next most likely to get the nod… How manager Jose Moreno aligns his infield will be interesting to see. Both Gabe Norieaga and Nick Franklin are natural shortstops, and while Franklin is the superior prospect, many feel his best position down the line might be second base.
Tacoma Rainiers at Sacramento RiverCats (OAK)
Starting pitchers TAC: LHP Luke French SAC: RHP Tyrone Ross
Start Time: 7:05 PST
Notes: There have been some rumors that Ross might get called up to Oakland before the game, so Sacramento might be forced to change their rotation plans somewhat… On a similar note, one of the Rainiers’ catchers, Josh Bard and Chris Gimenez, are almost certain to get a call up to Seattle after Adam Moore’s knee injury in yesterday’s game. The most likely replacement would be Jackson C Jose Yepez, but no announcement has been made yet… Much to the chagrin of Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto, OF Chris Carter has returned to terrorize the PCL again after failing to earn a roster spot with the A’s. Hopefully Rainiers pitchers can do a better job of containing him this year.
Let’s hope for another fantastic season of minor league baseball. It will be hard for the M’s system to top their success from 2010 (7 of 9 affiliates in the playoffs, two winning league titles), but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. Here’s to the 2011 season!