The Tacoma Rainiers have benefitted from strong starting pitching this season, and there is more on the horizon.
The Double-A Jackson Generals have three starting pitchers who have been in the rotation since opening day and have maintained earned-run averages below 3.00.
Right-hander Taijuan Walker, 20, leads the trio. The top prospect may not be winning games, but that is the fault of the Jackson offense more than his pitching. Walker is 3-7 despite a 2.56 ERA.
Walker has struck out 84 batters in 77 innings while issuing 30 walks. Most of the walks came in his first four starts. Since May 1, Walker has issued 12 walks in 48 innings.
Chance Ruffin continues to succeed in his conversion from short relief to starting. Ruffin reached the majors as a reliever in 2011, but spent all of 2012 in the Tacoma bullpen. This spring the Mariners decided to make him a starter, and the results are looking good.
Ruffin has made 11 starts for Jackson, going 3-2 with a 2.81 ERA. Ruffin has posted a 46-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 64 innings, while allowing 53 hits.
A new name to follow in Jackson is that of Cuban left-hander Roenis Elias. The 24-year-old defected from Cuba via boat in October 2010, landing in Mexico. The Mariners signed him at a tryout camp in 2011.
Elias has posted a 2.92 ERA in 12 starts for Jackson, logging a 3-6 record. Nine have been quality starts (meaning at least six innings with no more than three earned runs allowed), and he has allowed just four home runs in 74 innings.
Elias has been particularly stingy against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .196 average.
AQUASOX GET UNDER WAY
The short-season Northwest League opened play Friday night, and Seattle’s Everett affiliate picked up a road victory in Spokane, 6-4.
Nineteen-year-old Dominican right-hander Rigoberto Garcia excelled in the opening-day assignment, allowing two runs in six innings to earn the victory.
Outfielder Alfredo Morales doubled and homered, driving in a pair of runs. Catcher Carlton Tanabe went 3-for-5.
The AquaSox played without No. 1 draft pick DJ Peterson, who signed his contract Wednesday.
The third baseman from the University of New Mexico is expected to join the team and be in the lineup for Everett’s home opener Monday.Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.