The Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers are off to the best start among the Mariners’ minor league teams, bringing a 6-2 record into Saturday. But the best individual effort to open the season belongs to Double-A Jackson outfielder Guillermo Heredia.
The 25-year-old Cuban defector was supposed to be rusty after barely playing over the past two years while establishing his residency in Mexico and becoming eligible to sign. He was last seen playing for Cuba in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Instead, Heredia is batting .448 after eight games in Double-A. He has hit safely in all eight Generals games, going 13 for 29.
A quick runner known for his plate discipline, Heredia surprised by launching a grand slam in his second game on April 8 against Montgomery.
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“We’re just getting him going,” says Jackson manager Daren Brown, the former Rainiers and Mariners skipper. “At the plate, he’s been really disciplined and doesn’t swing at bad pitches. He’s gotten off to a good start, and there is a reason for it.”
Heredia has been playing center field for Jackson, although Brown says he fits anywhere in the outfield.
“He’s a solid defender, he can throw, and he can play all three outfield spots,” Brown said.
Jackson won five of its first eight games, using an experienced roster to jump out to a good start.
Six of the position players on Jackson’s roster have Triple-A experience with the Tacoma Rainiers. One player — catcher Steve Baron — has reached the majors.
The pitching staff features five more players have played for Tacoma, including Jordan Pries who served as the Rainiers’ opening day starter in 2015. Pries missed nearly half of the 2015 season with elbow problems and is being eased back into shape as a long reliever.
Seattle’s Low-A Clinton affiliate was a record-breaking club last season of the worst kind.
The team’s final record of 46-93 set a new franchise record for futility — and this is not a new team. The city has had some form of minor league baseball almost annually since 1895.
So it is with relief that we can report the 2016 LumberKings opened the season with a 5-3 record, including a 19-hit outburst in an 11-5 win at Cedar Rapids on Friday.
One of the Clinton regulars is outfielder Braden Bishop, who was the Mariners’ third-round draft pick in 2015 out of the University of Washington. Bishop had four hits Friday, boosting his batting average to .290.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.