Remodeled Rainiers run short of runs

t.cotterill@thenewstribune.comApril 19, 2014 

With all the remodeling the Tacoma Rainiers’ roster has undertaken the past week, it’s a surprise HGTV wasn’t filming.

But the bigger surprise will be if they can maintain continuity despite it. The Rainiers have registered 22 transactions in the first 16 days of the season — 14 of those coming the past six days.

Tacoma relied on Jesus Montero and three newcomers for offense in a doubleheader Friday against the Salt Lake Bees. The Rainiers won the early game 2-1 to extend their winning streak to six games, but couldn’t hold a lead late in the nightcap, losing 5-4.

Outfielders Julio Morban and Chantz Mack and catcher Manny Pina made their Rainiers' debuts Friday. And they certainly did their part.

Morban carried the Rainiers the first game. He singled and scored the Rainiers’ first run on Endy Chavez’ single in the bottom of the fourth, and later drove home the go-ahead run with a double down the right field line on the first pitch he saw in the sixth.

It scored Ty Kelly from first, who slid into home plate just before the tag. Morban finished the game 3-for-3.

“Morban is electrifying,” said Rainiers manager Roy Howell before the doubleheader. “This guy is a player.”

Morban, signed as a nondrafted free agent in 2008 out of the Dominican Republic, was added to the Rainiers roster from extended spring training. He was recovering from a broken leg he suffered in August.

The 2-1 lead would hold. Right-hander Andrew Carraway allowed one run on four hits over six innings to earn his first win and bounce back from a tough season debut on April 12 in Albuquerque, when he surrendered six runs in 42/3 innings.

Carraway gave up a solo home run to C.J. Cron — the No. 2 Los Angeles Angels prospect, according to Baseball America — but retired each of the next seven batters he would face before Logan Bawcom closed out the seventh for his second save.

The Rainiers’ two runs was their lowest run total of the win streak. Tacoma came in averaging 8.6 over five games.

The saturation of their roster might have played a factor. They’ve lost players such as Blake Beavan (now on the disabled list) and Nick Franklin to the Seattle Mariners, Nate Tenbrink and Humberto Quintero to the disabled list and Ji-Man Choi was suspended 50 games for testing positive for performance-enhancing substances.

The 22 transactions doesn’t count right-hander Brandon Maurer, who wasn’t officially promoted to the Seattle Mariners to start Sunday against the Miami Marlins, but is expected to do so.

“That’s why we’ve talked about why it’s very important for me and this staff to have these guys ready when the phone rings,” said Howell before the doubleheader. “And lately, it’s been ringing a lot.”

Mack and Pina both had hits in their first plate appearances in Rainier uniforms in the nightcap. Mack scored a run and Pina drove one home.

Jesus Montero hit his third homer of the season and added an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh as the Rainiers cut the deficit to 5-4. Endy Chavez grounded into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded.

The Rainiers led 3-1 in the top of the seventh until Efren Navarro’s bases-clearing double put Salt Lake ahead 5-3.

SHORT HOPS

All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma experienced no problems Friday in a simulated game. He is expected to begin his minor-league rehab assignment for Tacoma on Tuesday against the Sacramento Bees.

ON TAP

The Rainiers send right-hander Jordan Pries to the mound at 1:35 p.m. Saturday. It will be his first career Triple-A start as Tacoma begins a four-game home series against the Sacramento River Cats, who’ll start right-hander Sean Murphy (2-1, 5.06 ERA). The game will broadcast on 850-AM.

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677 t.cotterill@thenewstribune.com @Cotterill44

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