Eric Thames had just fouled off a pitch in the eighth inning of a Triple-A baseball game Monday when Las Vegas hitting coach Chad Mottola interrupted the outfielder’s at-bat.
“Hitting coach said ‘Hey! Hey!’” Thames recalled, “go to the locker room and change. You just got traded.”
Moments later, the 25-year-old learned he’d be dealt to Seattle.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Thames said Tuesday afternoon in the clubhouse at Safeco Field. “I haven’t slept much. In bed at midnight, but couldn’t sleep.”
Seattle acquired Thames on Monday night when it traded relief pitcher Steve Delabar to the Blue Jays.
Thames opened the 2012 season with the Blue Jays but was sent down to Triple-A in late May after batting .243 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 46 games. With Las Vegas, Thames hit .330 with 15 doubles, six home runs and 32 RBI in 54 games.
Thames wasn’t in the starting lineup against his former team Tuesday night, but he figures to get plenty of playing time, mostly in left field, over the next two months.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said the club has admired Thames’ ability from afar. Seattle saw Thames up close during a three-game series at Toronto in April when he went 4-for-9 with a double and home run.
“He can turn on a fastball,” Wedge said. “He has a nice swing. He’s a strong young man.
“We’ve liked him for a while now. We’re happy to have him here.”
Thames remembers hitting the home run against Seattle relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen earlier in the season.
“Got him earlier in the year – dinger,” he said, a grin creeping across his face. “Eighth inning, tied 3-3, fastball down the middle.”
When asked to grade the Thames-for-Delabar trade, Thames offered a clear answer.
“As a win for the Mariners,” he said.
TAKING UP ARMS
Thames wasn’t the only new face in the clubhouse Tuesday.
Seattle added two hard-throwing relief pitchers from Triple-A Tacoma – first-time call-up Carter Capps and rookie Stephen Pryor.
“As we continue to build our bullpen and look at our options,” Wedge said, “we felt it was important to get these guys up here.”
Capps’ time with Tacoma was brief. He was placed on the Rainiers’ roster on Thursday, made one appearance – he struck out three and allowed no runs, hits or walks in 1 innings Monday – and was called up Tuesday. In 50 innings at Double-A Jackson this season, Capps posted a 1.26 ERA, 19 saves, 72 strikeouts and 12 walks.
Capps, a right-hander, was stunned to learn after pitching Monday night in Tucson that he was headed to Seattle.
“It was pretty incredible,” the 21-year-old said. “I was pretty shocked for a while.”
Had the Mariners not traded two relievers – Delabar and Brandon League – Capps would probably still be with the Rainiers, but Wedge said the organization didn’t think Capps needed a lot of seasoning at Triple-A.
“No, we didn’t necessarily feel like that had to happen,” Wedge said. “He did a fantastic job this year in the minor leagues, and we felt like with the trades we made this was a good opportunity to get him up here.”
Pryor, a 23-year-old right-hander, returns to Seattle after a groin strain landed him on the disabled list in June. Before getting hurt, he made five appearances for the Mariners with a 1.69 ERA.Gutierrez update
Wedge said outfielder Franklin Gutierrez is making good progress healing from the concussion he suffered June 29. Gutierrez, on the 15-day disabled list, will have a rehab stint at Triple-A Tacoma before returning to Seattle.
“We’re almost out of the woods here, knock on wood,” Wedge said.
Seattle closes its three-game series against Toronto with a game at 7:10 tonight. Root Sports will provide TV coverage. Probable starting pitchers: Toronto’s Carlos Villanueva (6-0, 2.92 ERA) vs. Blake Beavan (6-6, 5.20).doug.pacey@ thenewstribune.com 253-597-8271 blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @DougPaceyTNT