04/03/2013 9:32 PM ET
Noesi, Walker at Double-A as Minor League rosters set
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Minor League rosters were set on Wednesday and there were a couple of surprises, including former Mariners starter Hector Noesi beginning the year in Double-A Jackson, where he'll join top prospect Taijuan Walker.
Noesi pitched 30 games in relief for the Yankees in 2011 before being traded to the Mariners in the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero deal. He started 18 games for Seattle last year, but went 2-12 with a 5.82 ERA and then 2-6 with a 5.74 ERA in Triple-A Tacoma. After a rough spring, the 26-year-old right-hander has now been asked to start this year at the Double-A level.
Tacoma has a starting rotation with an interesting mix of prospects and veterans with Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Jeremy Bonderman, D.J. Mitchell and Brian Sweeney in the mix. Catcher Mike Zunino, last year's first-round Draft pick, will work with that group after splitting last year between Class A and Double-A ball.
The Jackson roster includes infielder Brad Miller and catcher John Hicks, two youngsters who impressed the Mariners this spring. Chance Ruffin, another pitcher with Major League experience, is also opening at Jackson as he's being converted to a starting candidate.
Right-handed starter Erasmo Ramirez will begin the year on Tacoma's seven-day disabled list after dealing with arm soreness late in camp while competing for a rotation berth with the Mariners.
Here's the full roster at Triple-A Tacoma:
Pitchers: Logan Bawcom, Bonderman, Andrew Carraway, Danny Farquhar, Steven Hensley, Hultzen, Bobby LaFromboise, Yoervis Medina, Mitchell, Brian Moran, Jhonny Nunez, Paxton, Sweeney.
Catchers: Jesus Sucre, Zunino. Infielders: Nick Franklin, Alex Liddi, Scott Savastano, Nate Tenbrink, Carlos Triunfel, Rich Poythress. Outfielders: Denny Almonte, Endy Chavez, Carlos Peguero, Eric Thames.
Walk this way: Mariners racking up free passes
OAKLAND -- While it is the A's who are known for their patient Moneyball approach to hitting and high value on walks and on-base percentage, the Mariners turned the tables in the first two games and drew a Major League-leading 12 bases on balls.
The Brewers had the second most walks in the Majors with nine through their first two games.
Justin Smoak and Brendan Ryan were tied for the American League lead with three walks entering Wednesday, and in Tuesday night's 7-1 win, the Mariners drew eight free passes, which equaled their season high for 2012.
It's all quite a turnabout for a team that walked once in the first two games last season. Both Ryan and Smoak didn't draw their third walk until the 10th game last year and Smoak's fourth walk didn't come until six games after that.
Smoak said the walks are no coincidence but rather a sign of being more ready to identify and hit good pitches.
"I feel like the end of last year and during this spring, I've just been seeing the ball better," he said. "It's just being in a better position to hit, being ready to react to anything and I feel like I'm where I want to be."
Ironically, Smoak said he now feels more aggressive at the plate.
"I feel like when you're aggressive, you're going to lay off pitches you shouldn't swing at because you're ready to hit and you know what's a good one to swing at," he said. "That's how I'd always been before, but the last couple years I got a little passive trying to wait for something specific instead of being in there ready to hit. I feel like it helps you lay off those borderline pitches or hard sliders or good changeups down in the dirt."
Smoak went 0-for-3 on Tuesday but hit the ball hard twice -- on a loud foul down the left-field line -- and drew a bases-loaded walk that showed the ultimate patience.
"No doubt," he said with a grin. "Bases loaded right there, you're ready to swing as soon as you step into the box. I was ready to hit, but there was nothing good to hit for four straight pitches. That's how it goes. Take 'em any way you can get 'em."
Morse's mammoth home run too big to trail
OAKLAND -- Michael Morse's ninth-inning blast off A's closer Grant Balfour in Tuesday's 7-1 win was hit so high and far that it carried over the ROOT Sports camera angles and wasn't caught well on tape.
But the ball hit high up the massive wall behind the center-field fence at O.co Coliseum and ESPN's Home Run Tracker estimated the distance at 446 feet, the second-longest blast of the early season in Major League Baseball behind a 460-foot bomb by the Braves' Justin Upton on Monday.
Morse also lined an opposite-field shot for a three-run homer in the third inning Tuesday. On the heels of a Major League-high nine home runs this spring, the big outfielder has left little doubt about his potential impact.
"He's got some pop in that bat," said first baseman Justin Smoak. "It's definitely been a lot of fun to watch."
"He can take over a game with one swing of the bat," said third baseman Kyle Seager. "He's got that thing where anytime he goes up to the plate, you never know what can happen. And that's pretty special."
Morse hit his first homer while playing right field, with the second coming after he shifted over to left when the Mariners reset their outfield after Franklin Gutierrez entered the game in the eighth. He thus became just the second player in team history to homer twice in a game at different positions. David Bell hit a pair of homers on Aug. 23, 2001, against the Tigers while playing first and third base.
• The Mariners became the first team since the 1970 Reds to allow three or fewer hits in their first two games of the season, giving up three hits both Monday and Tuesday to the A's. That feat has occurred just four times since 1940 in Major League Baseball.
• How good were the Mariners' first two starters? Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma combined to go 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA, allowing just one run in 13 2/3 innings with one walk and 15 strikeouts.
• After six shutout innings Tuesday, Iwakuma's ERA since last year's All-Star break is 2.44, second-lowest of any American League starter behind the Rays' David Price (2.31).