Posted by Jason A. Churchill on August 31, 2006
Every September this comes up. Each club in the big leagues is allowed to expand their rosters by as many as 15 extra, starting on the first day of the final full month of the season.
Clubs typically stick to those already on the 40-man roster, but occasionaly reach for a prospect that is near major league ready. Fifteen is far-fetched and probably never has happened, but a half-dozen ballplayers will likely be major leaguers, either for the first time, or again, come the end of the first week of this month when the Triple-A season ends.
The Seattle Mariners, on the other hand, have been guilty of calling up their near-ready youngsters in June or July over the past three years, creating a somewhat meaningless group of September call-ups. Well, meaningless to the core of the club’s future, usually. Not to those who get that call.
This summer, the Mariners have summoned the likes of Adam Jones, Greg Dobbs, Shin-soo Choo, Sean Green, Emiliano Fruto, Eric O’Flaherty, Mike Morse, T.J. Bohn, Chris Snelling, Jon Huber, Cha Seung Baek, Bobby Livingston,and Mark Lowe. And technically, Rene Rivera, who spent the first week of the year in Triple-A Tacoma. That’s 14, and at least a few more are on their way.
The candidates include a couple of no-brainers, such as the recall of Dobbs, Jeff Harris, Bohn and Fruto, but a few first-timers are certain to have a quick chat with Rainiers skipper Dave Brundage, who’ll tell them the good news.
Right-hander Francisco Cruceta is a sure thing, and deservedly so. The 25-year-old leads the Pacific Coast League in strikeouts with 175 in 154 1/3 innings and opponents are hitting just .245 against him. Cruceta has issued 74 walks and servd up 24 long balls, but his 90-92 mph fastball and plus splitter provide him with the arsenal to get outs in the show.
Expect Cruceta to get a few innings in relief during the month, with the potential to get a few starts, should the M’s shut down Felix Hernandez, as expected.
Catcher Guillermo Quiroz is on the 7-day DL in Double-A San Antonio, but if he’s healthy, he, too could get the nod, as a pre-audition for 2007, or as potential trade bait during the winter. Quiroz is a quality backup catcher and has the skills to get it done in the majors. He should have been Kenji Johjima’s backup this season.
Other possible call-ups in Tacoma include lefty Cesar Jimenez and the recall of southpaw Bobby Livingston.
The thought of calling up Jeff Clement in September was run by a Mariners official this afternoon and the response indicated that the team has not decided but is leaning heavily toward not sending for Clement.
Left-hander Travis Blackley could, and should, get a call as well, depending on how many healthy arms are left on the big club at the time, and how many innings the club wants Blackley to throw during his first season off major shoulder surgery.
Blackley, 24 in November, has thrown 149 innings as he heads into his final start of the year tonight versus Salt Lake. He’s never thrown more thanthe 162 1/3 frames he pitched in San Antonio in 2003, and has reached the 130 mark only one other time in his career.
Right-hander Yorman Bazardo, who sports a solid 3.56 ERA at Double-A in 24 starts, could also be among those called up. Bazardo and Blackley are both current members of the 40-man roster, which comes into play with the not-so-sure things, such as the two aforementioned pitchers.
When a pitcher goes under the knife, it’s always a scary proposition. Will he ever be the same? With shoulder surgery, it’s even worse than that of those who undergo the TJ procedure. Blackley is already throwing at near-max velocity and while he has a ways to go to get back to where he was during the first half of 2004 when he led the PCL in ERA, he’s certainly further along than anyone would have bet.
Well, anyone but Travis. He bet on it – and won.
Blackley deserves it, but so does one other name that has played his heart out in Triple-A for two straight years.
Hunter Brown had a better year in ’05 than he is having this season, but in the name of Mickey Lopez, Brown, 26, deserves to sit on the bench in the big leagues, pinch run, get an AB, or just simply suit up for a few weeks, whether he gets in a game or not.
Brown can play third base and has a decent bench-level bat that plays well in a park like Safeco, since Brown likes to hit the ball from left-center to right-center, and has a 1.74 G/F rate with 54 line drives attached.
He may not be a future big-leaguer, but he’s as talented as any 25th man in the American League.
If the Mariners are about doing things right and rewarding the right guys for hard work, Travis Blackley and Hunter Brown will be wearing an M’s uniform in September.
Yeah, yeah, Churchill just wants his favorites to get the call. That’s true, in a sense, but they deserve it as much as some of those who have already been up.
No doubt about it.