Seattle Mariners

Minors notebook: Littell lighting things up for the Blaze

By Mike Curto

Contributing Writer

The Mariners have had a resurgent season in the minor leagues, with all four full-season clubs posting winning records and young players improving their stock.

One pitcher who is gaining notice is Advanced-A Bakersfield right-hander Zack Littell.

The 20-year-old started his season at Low-A Clinton, where he made 16 starts and went 5-5 with a 2.76 ERA. His peripheral numbers were outstanding: 95 strikeouts and 21 walks in 97 2/3 innings, with 94 hits allowed and only five homers.

That earned him a bump to Bakersfield, where he has been terrific so far. Going into Saturday’s start at Lake Elsinore, Littell is 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA for the Blaze. On Friday, Minor League Baseball named him the California League Player of the Month for July.

“He’s a prospect, no doubt about it,” said Mariners pitching coordinator Rick Waits. “He had a good fastball as a kid out of high school, but he really didn’t have a good breaking ball or changeup. Great work by him and our pitching coaches the last two years giving him two breaking balls and a changeup.”

Littell was the Mariners 11th round pick in the 2013 draft. Seattle selected him out of Eastern Alamance High School in Mebane, North Carolina where he was a 17-year-old senior. He’s listed at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds.

“He’s a horse — he’s strong, he doesn’t look 20 years old, and he comes right after you every game,” Waits said. “I think he’s going to go up the system quickly now that he’s putting everything together.”

Double Zeroes In Double-A

The Mariners Double-A Jackson affiliate pitched back-to-back shutouts this week — and came one inning away from making it three in a row.

The streak started on Tuesday in Montgomery, Alabama against the Tampa Bay Rays affiliate. Mariners 2015 second round pick Andrew Moore pitched the best game of his young professional career, a complete game five-hitter in which he needed just 97 pitches. Moore is 7-1, 2.78 for Jackson.

On Wednesday, it was Ryan Yarbrough, Kyle Schepel, and Matt Anderson combining on a three-hit shutout. Yarbrough went the first six innings, allowing one hit and improving to 11-4, 3.02 for the year.

Jackson completed a five-game road series sweep of Montgomery on Thursday, with a 10-2 win that was nearly another shutout. Paul Blackburn delivered seven scoreless innings before giving way to reliever Aaron Brooks. Brooks kept Montgomery off the scoreboard in the eighth inning, but allowed two unearned runs in the ninth.

The Jackson affiliate has pitched a Southern League-leading 13 shutouts this season, and has a 70-40 record.