It was a big day for Tacoma, which banged out 17 hits in a 15-4 win over Nashville. Luke French (remember him?) finally picked up his first win of the year in his 10th start. Hard to believe that near the end of spring training, the battle for the M’s fifth starting job was down to French, David Pauley and Michael Pineda. I will let the Grail Knight evaluate that decision.
Hitting-wise, it was a cornucopia of clout, led by Alex Liddi (3-for-6, two doubles, four RBIs), Mike Carp (grand slam, five RBIs), Dustin Ackley (double, triple, two walks, four runs), and Sean Kazmar (3-for-4).
I get a lot of queries about Liddi, particularly with Chone Figgins struggling so badly at third base. I talked yesterday to Pedro Grifol, the Mariners’ farm director, and asked him about Liddi. Here’s his reply:
“I think being in Triple-A is a perfect spot for him. He’s learning every day. He still has some inconsistencies with his ABs. He might have a 3-for-5 and look great, and the next day he gives away some at-bats. It’s just a sign of maturity, of experience. He needs to play. As far as talent is concerned, there’s no question he has the talent to be in the big leagues one day and impact a major-league club. This is a perfect time to be in Triple-A and develop his game, go through adversity, face it, beat it, go through it again and beat it again. In other words, go through the ups and downs you need to go through to be a major leaguer.”
The bottom line is that Liddi is probably not a major-league option for this season, except maybe as a September callup. Remember, he’s 22 and still young in his development, having grown up in Italy. He has struck out 61 times in 173 at-bats. But there’s definitely a lot of promise there.
Double-A Jackson and Single-A High Desert both had the day off yesterday. Catcher Steve Baron hit a home run in Class A Clinton’s 7-1 win, which featured another strong effort by starter James Paxton. In six innings, Paxton gave up three hits and one run, striking out 12. And I was told that all 12 of the strikeouts came on swings and misses for strike three. That’s impressive. It was Paxton’s first victory as a pro, and his season ERA dropped to 2.22. Over his last four starts, he’s given up just one earned run, and opponents are hitting .224 off him. I can tell you that in speaking to a lot of people for a story I’m working on for Friday’s paper, there’s growing excitement about the long-term potential of Paxton and his Clinton teammate, Taijuan Walker, last year’s No. 1 pick. They’re both raw and a long ways off (particularly Walker), but the tools and stuff are high upside.