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JJonesSeptember call-ups are right around the corner and the question already is being asked. Which players may be summoned by the Seattle Mariners once rosters expand September 1?

Some of the answers are obvious, including James Jones who has multiple stints with the big club this season. Others may be dictated by what occurs between today and the activation of Michael Saunders. Saunders’ 20-day rehab assignment is up next week but as Ryan Divish wrote in the Seattle Times over the weekend, M’s skipper Lloyd McClendon wants to make sure Saunders won’t have to find his timing in the majors, suggesting the outfielder will remain with Triple-A Tacoma for the full 20 days. If the club believes Saunders needs more time they can restart his rehab after five days. At that point, however, September will have arrived and Saunders can be recalled without taking up a precious active roster spot.

It’s also worth noting the minor league season ends September 1, too, and the Rainiers likely will not be in the postseason, leaving Saunders no place to continue rehabbing. In all likelihood, Saunders is recalled September 1, if not once his 20 days are up four days prior.

Below are the most likely candidates to get such a call in a few weeks. Remember, while the roster limit expands to 40, clubs generally call for three or four players, sometimes five or six.

[pullquote]I’d bet the farm either Quintero or Hicks — probably Quintero because he has major league experience — is added to the active roster in September to give the M’s a third catcher in case McClendon wants to pinch run for Mike Zunino or Jesus Sucre, or if the club ends up in some extra-inning scenarios.[/pullquote]Infielders
Justin Smoak, 1B
Jesus Montero, 1B/DH
Ty Kelly, 2B/3B/LF
Ji-Man Choi, 1B/DH

James Jones, OF
Stefen Romero, OF
Xavier Avery, OF
Julio Morban, OF

John Hicks, C
Humberto Quintero, C

Taijuan Walker, RHP
Erasmo Ramirez, RHP
Lucas Luetge, LHP
Carson Smith, RHP
Todd Coffey, RHP
Logan Kensing, RHP

130628185343-taijuan-walker-single-image-cutJones, Romero and Smoak are no-brainers, it seems. Each have big-league experience and can serve a literal purpose on the field in September. Montero may make some sense, too, but for Kelly or Avery it would take a 40-man roster move. There is room as Willie Bloomquist can placed on the 60-day DL, as could Corey Hart if the club doesn’t feel he will be able to return before the end of the month.

The M’s can also DFA right-hander Logan Bawcom to clear a spot. Bawcom has been inconsistent and hurt this season and is about fifth on the current reliever list, at best.

Choi is on the 40-man roster but he’s limited to first base and DH and there may simply not be any at-bats available, particularly with Montero and Smoak both ahead of him.

I’d bet the farm either Quintero or Hicks — probably Quintero because he has major league experience — is added to the active roster in September to give the M’s a third catcher in case McClendon wants to pinch run for Mike Zunino or Jesus Sucre, or if the club ends up in some extra-inning scenarios.

Julio Morban is on the 40-man, but has fewer than 100 plate appearances in Tacoma and has been injury prone throughout his career.

Ramirez and Walker will be recalled and likely used primarily as long relievers. One or the other could be inserted to spot start, however, particularly if Roenis Elias shows he may be tiring or simply continues to struggle.

Luetge also will be recalled.

Smith and Coffey will need to be added to the 40-man if they are to see the majors in 2014, and there’s a solid chance at least one of them will. Kensing may be a longshot but he’s been solid in Tacoma and can cover multiple innings as a ground ball arm.

What I’d do
I’d recall Jones, Romero, Smoak, Luetge, Walker and Ramirez. I’d place both Bloomquist and Hart on the 60-day DL and add Smith and Quintero. The rest will have to wait for injury to gain any further consideration.

DJPJaxMaybe next year
Just as it’s not time for Morban, it’s probably a year early for the likes of Hicks, D.J. Peterson, Patrick Kivlehan and the suspended Jabari Blash. Peterson needs the rest of this year in Double-A and may get an Arizona Fall League assignment. Hicks made his way to Tacoma this season and while it’s not necessarily out of the question he gets a peak next month, he’s not likely to get much actual playing time.

Others at least a year away include shortstop Ketel Marte, who has but a week of experience in Triple-A but is performing well, right-handers Matt Anderson, Victor Sanchez and Mayckol Guiape and outfielders Jordy Lara and Gabriel Guerrero. Lara has a sound power swing with above-average bat speed but still is working on laying off the breaking ball out of the zone and the fastball above his hands.

Long term
Every other true prospect in the system is likely more than year from the big leagues, including catcher Tyler Marlette, outfielder Guillermo Pimentel and left-hander Tyler Pike.

Austin Wilson likely is two-plus year away and perhaps further down the road yet are outfielder Tyler O’Neill and right-handers Edwin Diaz and Emilio Pagan. Diaz could be fast-tracked as a reliever, but the plan is for him to start in 2015 and continue building on his strong, healthy 2014. Pike has struggled in Jackson and scouts tell me there are a few mechanical concerns with him that will have to be fixed if he’s to progress as a starter.

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    The difference between ackley in the past and the current ackley are the mechanical changes. Those hot streaks he had in the past might have been him not stepped toward first base for a week or so and started to have success then fell right back to old habits. These are legit changes that for the most part he has sustained for almost 2 months now. He had a lapse earlier last week but he corrected and is hitting again and that correction he made is what made me into a believer that this could be a different Ackley. He had failed to make “proper” changes to his mechanics before and if he did he would lose them shortly after. The fact that he went back to what was working for him after he fell back into old habits is something we havent seen from him.

    Like I said in my original I havent been a fan of Ackley since 2012 and never understood the disdain of smaok and the acceptance or continued belief of Ackley both of whom I believed were not worthy of praise. I have never liked his swing after his initial call up in 2011. I felt there was way to much going on and that lunge/Ichiro hitting style like you put it only works one way that is Ichiro’s. This is pure speculation on my part here but since he was a 2b for most of his career and he was considered a pure hitting player that he wanted to make a statement with his bat while playing a offensive challenged position. He wanted to be a power hitting 2nd basemen all of which he was not and he got himself into some pretty bad habits that continued to get worse.

    Now Ackley is not anywhere close to where we all thought he would be and this could be another one of his hot streaks but he has made those changes all three of us have talked and like I said is something he hasn’t done before. I dont believe this current Ackley will be a all-star type player that once was his promise but he could be a solid addition and core piece to this M’s team which is something I wouldnt have even thought of 2.5 months ago. The numbers tell a story but not the whole story. The “scouting” side is where you have to look at Ackley to see if this could possibly be sustainable. Has he changed his mechanics, is he being aggressive, does he look lost. The numbers will can show the outcome of those 3 things but you can see like you said in the past that he has done this before. Those three things are different this time thats what makes this Ackley intriguing.

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    Tyler and Nighthawk,

    I agree with your general comments, but disagree somewhat with the final conclusion that this is a fundamental change in his game.

    For me, Ackley has been one of the most frustrating players to watch because he has obvious talent, but it was incredibly plain to see why he was failing so miserably. I’m not a scout, and have no coaching and little playing experience, so I don’t try to pick apart players mechanics or approach much. But every once in a while, a player struggles at something that is blatantly obvious to even the most casual fans (like Beltre with sliders down and away). With Ackley, it was his odd adoption of the Ichiro swing.

    Ackley – when he’s bad (e.g. most of the past few years) – adopts a swing where he opens his front side early and steps way towards first base. It’s a swing very much like Ichiro’s, which is a terrible idea unless your name is Ichiro. He’d predictably roll over every pitch and hit weak grounders to second.

    As you guys both noted, for the past two months he’s stopped doing this, and is keeping his body squared up. And, predictably, he’s stopped hitting weak grounders to second and is finally driving the ball a bit.

    The part that troubles me – and where my take differs from you guys – is that I think he’s done this before. The last few ‘good streaks’, at least to my untrained eye, look pretty similar. I remember thinking this exact same thing last year: ‘nice…he’s finally stopped trying to hit like Ichiro and is staying in the box and driving the ball….maybe he isn’t a bust after all.’ Then, he reverts.

    His improvement between pre- and post-ASB is driven largely by improved ISO and slightly improved K rate, as well as much better BABIP. The ISO makes sense, as its clear that the mechanical changes he’s made have helped him drive the ball. But there are some weird trends in those numbers.

    If you look at individual months, his July numbers seem flukey, with great production masking shitty peripherals

    July: .365/.386/.506, 3.3 BB%, 16.7K%, .141 ISO, .435 BABIP

    Those numbers are a textbook example of an unsustainable lucky streak: low BB, unchanged K, super high BABIP.

    But then August happened:

    Aug: .256/.312/.477, 7.5 BB%, 14.8 K%, .221 ISO, .261 BABIP

    In August, I think Ackley actually underperformed. His BABIP is crazy low, but all his peripheral are MUCH better than his July stats.

    I’m hoping that he can maintain those blatantly obvious mechanical changes that he’s made, while reaching a happy medium in his peripheral numbers. Ideally, Ackley should be walking more than 10% of the time, with a pretty low K rate. He’s also the type of player who should be able to maintain a relatively high BABIP give his speed and style of hitting. If he can continue to implement the changes he’s made, I think he has a shot at becoming the solid player we thought he’d develop into.

    I’m cautiously optimistic, as having a good Dustin Ackley will make this team A LOT better. By good, I mean a player similar to what we saw in 2011: ~.300/.360/.450. He’s pretty close to that right now.

    Let’s hope he can keep this up the rest of the year. If so, the M’s might not have a desperate need for OFers in the offseason, as Saunders, Jackson, and Ackley would give us a pretty solid group of hitters with excellent defense. Then, the M’s could look to add a guy like Denorfia (RH platoon guy who can do a bit of everything), and focus their spending on DH and 1B. Lets keep our fingers crossed.

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    I think I’m buying that this is more of what Ackley is capable of doing, largely do to the mechanical changes. Though his BABIP was over .400 for the month of July, it sits at .330 for the second half. If it was just a two-week hot streak I would’ve shaken it off but it really does seem legit. 2013 can be a mulligan in some way as he was learning how to play the outfield and that adjustment probably affected his batting. But this year he’s looked much better and as he’s grown more comfortable out there he’s hit better. Is there a definite correlation? Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that it looks like the M’s may have finally have a legit No. 2 hitter who can play the outfield half decent.

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    This latest Ackley isnt the same 2nd half or hot sept Ackley of the past. He has made legit mechanical changes to his swing. Though he still falls back into his old ways he is not stepping in the bucket as much thus keeping his hips closed a little longer and also helps him reach the outside part of the plate. He also is standing a little closer to the plate too. I dont expect him to sustain his pace but this could be a turning point in his career definitely.

    He has improved in the OF too. Even though he looks so uncomfortable/awkward sometimes he has improved routes and has caught pretty much everything he can get to. His arm needs to get stronger and I feel that will be a thing he will work on this offseason as well as refining his hitting mechanics some more or learn to stay consistent with them.

    Jason knows this about me but I have not been an Ackley supporter for a long time. I felt he was a bust during his second year and he then proceeded to get worse. These recent changes to his swing has brought him closer to his college swing and the results are showing. Having said that his college swing and todays swing are really different but at least he has made adjustments which for awhile seemed impossible during games.

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    What say you guys?

    Do you buy into Ackley’s latest tease? He looks awesome, and I want to believe he’s finally figured it out. But he’s done this before.

    Is this just another tease? Or has he taken the Alex Gordon career path and finally turned a corner?

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    Bummer the Ms couldn’t add Castillo.

    If they go out and sign Yasmani Tomas next offseason, all will be forgiven.

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    If the M’s had a big hole in CF, they might have more interest in Rusney Castillo, but they just traded for Jackson, so the need lessened a bit. The money that Castillo is going to demand and get, doesn’t make much sense. Seattle has some very good outfield prospects, and granted, they are a few years away. But, to cough up the rexpected $40 – 60 million for four years, is rather steep.

    And as pointed out, Seattle, to someone who likely wants to be around a large Cuban community, would seem like an awful long way to go, when he could find some place closer to Cuba.

    Money isn’t it. He’s gonna get paid by some team for tens of millions of dollars. What would make Seattle appealing to him?

  8. “Is there any reason to believe Rusney Castillo (5’9′ / 185) will be much better hitter than Yuniesky Betancourt (5’11′ / 210)? If Yuni had defected 10 years later, I would imagine he would be courting the same figures as Castillo is rumored to get.”

    Why are their sizes relevant here at all? The way this is typed out it appears the heights and weights are part of why one player will follow in the footsteps of another. Not only are those figures incorrect on Betancourt (he was well under 200 pounds when he signed) but the height and weight comparison is useless in comparing the two players.

    Castillo, I’m told (I have not seen him beyond a few minutes of BP video), has an advanced understanding of the strike zone, has a better swing, knows his limitations (doesn’t have a fly ball swing) and is considered near big league ready if not ready to jump in right away. Even those that liked Betancourt’s chances to hit knew he wouldn’t walk and that he had a terrible two-strike approach to go along with a fear of batting with two strikes in the first place. He also has Adrian Beltre’s swing, but half of the power it takes to succeed with that swing.

    Another significant difference is the mental approach Castillo is believed to possess. Huge advantage over Betancourt, who was younger, less experienced in pro ball overall and not as close to the majors when he signed.

  9. “The M’s clearly like him quite a bit but he’s a free agent with his own preferences and it doesn’t appear Seattle is among them. Money not the reason.”

    Right. Money NOT the reason Castillo isn’t favoring the M’s. It’s almost certainly about geography.

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    I agree with Jason — there’s just not all that much to be said at the moment. Certainly the lineup is better and should be producing more due to the acquisitions, as well as the call-up of Taylor, and I think that’s what we’re seeing. Keep your eyes out after the regular season and we’ll likely do a comparison of the M’s first-half performance vs. their second-half performance or something along those lines. That way we can evaluate an ~81 game sample instead of a 20 game sample and say something more meaningful.

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    Is there any reason to believe Rusney Castillo (5’9′ / 185) will be much better hitter than Yuniesky Betancourt (5’11’ / 210)? If Yuni had defected 10 years later, I would imagine he would be courting the same figures as Castillo is rumored to get.

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    I dont think Jason was referring to the M’s and the money but that Castillo doesnt want to play here. It could be many reasons such as climate, traveling schedule, location of city, etc. He was alluding that the money the M’s offered wasnt the reason he doesnt want to play here. The m’s could have made a very competitive offer just the player doesnt want to come here.

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    Castillo not about the money??? If the 5 years and 50 to 60 million rumor is true, then it sure sounds like it’s about the money to me! And I don’t blame the M’s if the don’t want to outbid everyone to get him…

  14. Re: Castillo

    The M’s clearly like him quite a bit but he’s a free agent with his own preferences and it doesn’t appear Seattle is among them. Money not the reason.

    Re: Coffey

    Coffey absolutely can be part of the present. There was little interest in him at the deadline, but there’s still a chance he’s moved this month. He doesn’t have to clear waivers.

    Re: Hicks

    It still makes more sense for it to be Quintero, even with the Hicks/Rule 5 thing. He’s not ready to handle big league pitching OR hit it, and there’s only so much room in the clubhouse so the M’s will summon those most likely to help them on the field.

    Smith is the best reliever in Tacoma stuff wise and he’s really put it together. If they think he can help even for five innings in September, the roster timing is a complete non factor, especially with the chances Seattle plays in October in terms of potential injuries, etc.

    Re: Saunders

    Rehabs are 20 days — 30 for pitchers — maximum, but a rehab can be restarted. The catch is a batter has to sit out of games for 5 days (7 for pitchers) before restarting the 20-day (again, 30 for pitchers) assignment and there won’t be a place for a rehabbing player to play come September 1.

    Once Sept 1 hits there’s no downside to activating Saunders if he’s close enough because he won’t be taking up a valuable 25-man spot.


    It’s really pretty simple: you add better hitters, you get better. Jackson is taking ABs from Jones. Denorfia is taking ABs from Chavez. Morales is taking Hart’s ABs. Upgrade, upgrade, upgrade. The improvement is what is important there, not the numbers themselves. And we can’t forget the job Taylor has done thus far. He knows the league doesn’t have a good book on him yet and he’s taking advantage of it. How many automatic outs are there in the order these days? Maybe 1-2 at most. The top 5 bats are making the pitchers work and/or pay and the residual impact that assists the Morrisons, Denorfias, Zuninos, et al, at the bottom of the order.

    I don’t see an actual piece to be written here — it’s a 20-day sample — but it’s very clear the lineup is better and once Saunders gets back it gets even better. Legitimate big league lineup. Not GOOD, per se, but closer to ML average.

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    Jason or Tyler,
    I’d love to see one of you do a piece on the notion that M’s hitting has gone from terrible to mediocre (something the morning guy on KJR focused on the other morning). More accurate is that we show legitimate promise of going from having major offensive holes in the line-up to showing a balanced attack top-to-bottom. We’re not there yet––too many games where the bats take the night off––but isn’t there a discernible upward trajectory of improvement we are in the midst of seeing here?

    When Denorfia finally broke out with a good game against Detroit the other day or watching Chris Taylor actually show good pitch recognition with regularity (such a rarity for M’s developed players over the last decade), I think what will be the hope of this playoff run isn’t “mediocrity” at the plate. Rather, it will be elimination the black holes in the line-up of recent years where the M’s have all but given away innings with Brandon Ryan at the plate; Smoak’s hit-or-miss streakiness that is always more miss than hit; Ackley’s loss of confidence (and eye) in his “sophomore” and “junior” seasons; Figlet collecting a paycheck without ever collecting hits; Milton Bradley giving himself the finger; the Clement/RobJob/Moore/Olivo fiasco that made me want to bite off someone’s ear, etc., etc.

    In other words, for this team to be a legitimate threat, the offense needs to show balance in the one through nine holes, like the SF Giants of recent years; or the M’s of 2007 when ALL nine hitters drove in 50+ RBI’s that season. Calling this “mediocre” in the aggregate completely misses the point. If all nine hitters can hold or raise their individual OPS above .700 (Morrison, Jackson, Morales, Denorfia are lagging even in the last 30 days), then this team could be the sleeper opponent that NO other team wants to face in the Wild Card or dare we say the actual playoffs.

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    With September call-ups, the M’s have gone lean in recent years and, other than wanting to avoid wearing out I-5 between Seattle and Tacoma as they’ve been doing for our 5th starter, I don’t see Lloyd wanting to clutter his dugout just to award our AAAA prospects. So Ramirez and Walker will likely be up so Elias can be shut down; Saunders will be up to platoon with Denorfia; and Jones will be our pinch runner. That will be it me thinks.

    Jason, I must say that your afternoon show on the Fan with Sandmeyer is hands down the best Mariner radio out there–– better than the rah-rah-rah on ESPN 710; the faux analysis from an intelligent but rarely prepared Groz; or the jock buffoonery of Softy; or Furness who thinks if he talks enough something actually smart might come out.

    For example, I loved it last week when one of you guys on The Fan actually challenged the well-entrenched premise that it’s-OK-for-an-ump-to-have-a-shitty-strike-zone-as-long-as-he’s-consistent. Instead, the strike zone is the strike zone and we should expect competence from professional well-paid umpires. The Felix VS Price game didn’t even rise to the substandard level of consistent, and we saw what that incompetence does to ML hitters approaches to the plate. It bastardized what should have been an elite contest between two teams in the thick of a pennant race.

    Anyway, keep up the good insightful analysis on The Fan.

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    I like the idea of Hicks getting called up. He’s got to go on the 40 man next year to avoid the Rule V draft. I don’t see anyone else that really fits that bill.

    There’s really no reason to keep Hart on the 40 man other than to perhaps to get him to return next year on a minor league deal to Spring Training. That’s all he’s getting. The Rainiers are all but done and there won’t be time for Hart to get a decent rehab assignment, the same goes for Montero who is on the DL in Tacoma I guess.

    Smith doesn’t need to be added to the 40 man until 2016. I would hold him out one more year just because.

    Jones, Romero, Walker, Erasmo, Smoak and Luetge I would like to see get added and Hicks is an interesting idea. Oh, and Saunders. I can’t believe they will let him sit in Tacoma until September. What is the longest they can keep him on rehab?

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    It would have been nice if the M’s could have traded Coffey to the Dodgers, or some one in the NL who needed bullpen help. He’s not really part of the present or (at age 34) the future of this team.

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    I’m more conservative on the call-ups. For pitchers, I would guess only those on the 40-man roster and have pitched well, i.e. Luetge, Ramirez and Walker.

    I would put WFB on the 60-day and add a 3rd catcher (Quintero).

    Condor also comes back, so whomever Condor displaces will be back.

    For position players, Montero, Smoak, Jones and Romero are no-brainers.

    My honorable mentions are: Hicks, Kelly, Pries, Snow, Coffey and Smith.

  21. Avatar

    Any idea on Rusney Castillo. The general rumor mill is that the M’s are in but not to what extent. I really like this guy. See him in LF or RF and batting second for the M’s. 7 years 47 Mill?

  22. rocketdawg31,

    I’m glad you brought that up because the assumption by many fans seems to be that either the club has rushed all of their young prospects so they haven’t hit or that maybe they didn’t draft well in the first place. Neither are true. I believe Zunino was rushed, but he’s handling it fine. As I stated last summer when he was called up, it’s going to take some real time for him to hit for average in MLB but we’ll see the power and the solid defense.

    Ackley was mishandled in 2012 but he absolutely was not rushed into the majors. He was crushing Triple-A pitching, as was Miller and Franklin. All needed to be challenged. Once Ackley went on to struggle for 3 months in ’12, he should have been sent back to Tacoma to fix his mechanics. He wasn’t optioned until mid-13, wasting a whole season’s worth of ABs and then wasn’t instructed to fix mechanics. The time in TAC also wasted.

    Prospects fail all the time. Elite ones, too. Look at Trout’s first go in the bigs. Look at how poorly Xander Bogaerts has hit this year — 226/293/339 in 114 games. Jackie Bradley Jr has been awful at the plate. Michael Choice hasn’t hit this year despite his home ballpark. Jonathan Singleton is batting 185/288/371 in 66 games since being called up. It happens. Fans look around and see the few young players that ARE hitting — Nick Castellanos, AJ Pollock, Christian Yelich, et al — and freak out without taking into consideration the M’s ballpark, how difficult it is to hit without support around the batter in question, how difficult it is to hit in general in MLB right now…

    For all the accolades on George Springer for his 20 homers in 78 games, the dude is batting 231/336.

  23. maqman,

    No, they won’t be giving young players evaluation time in September. If they put Hart on the 60-day, he’s done for the regular season.

    Re: Wilson
    He’s performed all year. Not sure what you’re talking about. Had a foot injury that kept him out awhile but he’s hit consistently while active.

  24. Rob H.

    1. For one, position. He’s a 2B by trade, cannot play SS and doesn’t project to hit for much average, depleting the value of his on-base skills. He’s a 25th/26th man type. Useful when a club has injuries, but not a prospective regular big leaguer. There’s no plus tool there at all, and the only reason he’s performing at all in the PCL is because he does have a clue of the strike zone so he’ll let a pitcher down there issue him four pitches outside the zone. That gets negated very much in the majors, and he will chase some.

    2. Romero can hit. He was not ready for the role the M’s were using him — play a day or two here and there, sit for 2-4 days, pinch hit one day, sit the next, start the next two… that’s a veteran’s gig, someone who doesn’t need the at-bats to develop — like Denorfia.

    With more time in AAA and then in MLB, Romero can be that type of hitter. A bat that at least hits left-handed pitching, plays decent corner outfield defense and maybe becomes Marty Cordova for a few years.


  25. Avatar

    Great work as always, Jason. The great news about an article like this is that it highlights that there seems to be reasonably good odds that the system is going to be delivering a steady stream of talented young ballplayers to audition for at least the next 3-4 seasons.

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    A couple quick questions:

    1) What is holding Ty Kelly back from the big leagues at this point? How would you rate his defensive ability? He obviously has an impressive on-base ability as a switch hitter, makes a lot of contact and has shown improved power this year. Would make a great utility guy if his defensive ability is decent. Seems like he could be a Scott Spiezio type of hitter.

    2) Stefen Romero seemed overmatched all year with the Mariners but has been destroying the ball with Tacoma this month. Could this be legitimate growth or just good luck?

  27. Avatar

    Given that the team is legitimately in the post season hunt I doubt they will waste at bats or appearances just to evaluate a prospect. I agree they should stick Hart on the 60-day DL to open up an additional 40-man spot but I think they may still want to try and justify the contract they gave him and so give him another shot. I can see them replacing Elias with Walker to spare Elias’ arm, he looks like he’s getting tired from the additional innings. If Walker looks off maybe they give Erasmo some more starts. I wonder if Austin Wilson will ever put it all together or end up a bust?

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