Mariners more than met the eye
Everybody knows one.
That would be the person whose romantic other half has a heart made of better stuff than precious metal and a sparkling personality to match but who, let’s be brief here, would be unlikely to inspire a classic work of portraiture.
You can think of Appalachian League record of the 2012 Pulaski Mariners in much the same way. In other words, it ain’t much to look at but they can still be proud to be seen with it just the same.
The Mariners finished 29-38, and in last place in the East Division, 12 ½ games behind powerhouse Elizabethton. Pulaski had the third worst record on the 10-team circuit.
Yet there was more there than first meets the eye.
“We want to teach them to win,” veteran hitting coach Rafael Santo Domingo said. “But we also want to develop them and get them to the next level. If we do that, then we have done our job.”
By that standard, it was quite a season. As for the players, this was some group, if they were ever in Calfee Park at the same time. That was the problem: the full complement never was.
It wasn’t until the last week of the season that Appy batting champ Dario Pizzano was posted to Everett of the Northwest League, taking his .356 average and 20 extra base hits with him.
Earlier departures included closer Matt Brazis (19 strikeouts, 0 walks, two saves, 8.1 innings in Pulaski) to Clinton of the Midwest League; outfielder James Zamarripa, a 2011 sixth-round draft choice hardly in Pulaski long enough to have been assigned a locker, who subsequently played at both Everett and Clinton; and outfielder Brock Hebert (.288, eight steals in Pulaski) to Everett.
Think if that gang had stayed intact in Pulaski there might have been some better results in the standings?
They weren’t the only good ones. Catcher Tyler Marlette, a fifth-round choice in 2011, joined Pizzano on the league all star team that was announced Aug. 23. Marlette, like Zamarripa just 19 years old, hit .284 with five home runs, 23 RBIs, and 14 doubles. He switched from playing third base in high school to catching in the pros.
“He’s got a long way to go but I think he’s going to catch in the big leagues one day,” said John Stearns, the organizational catching coordinator who also caught in 810 games over 11 years for the New York Mets. “It’s exciting to see a 19-year-old who has all the tools like he’s got.”
Other top prospects who called Pulaski home this summer included outfielder Phillips Castillo and shortstop Martin Peguero. Castillo, who hit .213 but had six homers and 23 RBI at Pulaski, is rated the No. 10 prospect in the Seattle organization; Peguero hit .236 and is rated No. 20.
Pizzano, who is also the organizational batting leader, played a lot of designated hitter at Pulaski. He factors into Seattle’s outfield plans of the future.
“Professional AB’s, very consistent approaches, gap-to-gap – he was a big help for us,” Pulaski manager Jose Moreno said when Pizzano was called up. “He’s going to help Everett. That stadium is almost like Pulaski: short porch in right field. So I think his ability to hit the ball to both sides will be a big plus for them.”
By Wednesday, Pizzano had gone 3-for-6 with two walks in two games in his new home.
Elsewhere among Pulaski’s batters, Jabari Henry, Jordy Lara, and Reggie Lawson combined to bash 22 homers, eight each by Henry and Lara.
There was notable development on the Pulaski pitching front as well. Part of that can be attributed to the stability provided by the catching corps headed by Marlette.
“Very solid overall,” Moreno said of Marlette. “The way he handled the staff, took charge at a young age — that’s tough to do.”
The revelation of the pitching staff may have been right-hander Charles Kaalekahi (4-4, 3.19), who owns the fourth- lowest earned run average in the chain. The resident of Ewa Beach Hawaii was a strike-thrower who pitched smart. He didn’t have the crusher fastball that some prospects do but he did have the type of makeup and stuff that translates well at any level.
Kaalekahi was the team leader with 65 strikeouts in a team-leading 67 1/3 innings. His 18 walks were second lowest among Pulaski pitchers with as many as 43 innings pitched.
Another breakthrough year on the mound was authored by 19-yer-old opening day starter Jochi Ogando (2-3, 4.17) , a 19-year-old Dominican right-hander. Ogando’s fastball touches the upper reaches of the 90 mph range but in the opinion of his coaches, was too dependent on the heater to the detriment of the rest of his developing arsenal.
Ogando employed his change-up and breaking pitch more the second half and his progress has been notable. He’s only played baseball at any level for four years.
Also making progress was yet another 19-year-old, Rigoberto Garcia (5-4, 5.37), who too was at his best in the second half. Another innings eater, Garcia saved his best for last during the closing homestand with a six inning, eight strikeout, no walk, no run performance against the Twins, the top hitting team in the league.
Isleixel Gonzalez got a couple off starts but was mostly out of the bullpen. His 2.32 ERA was lowest on the team among those with as many as 43 innings. David Holman succeeded Brazis in the pen and finished with eight saves.
-Ray Cox covers recreational, high school and college sports in the New River Valley. If you have information you’d like featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 381-1672.
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