Rainiers’ Gillespie makes case for promotion

Contributing writerApril 20, 2014 

At age 29, it would be difficult to describe Tacoma Rainiers outfielder Cole Gillespie as a prospect. However, that doesn’t mean he won’t play for the Seattle Mariners this season.

Gillespie has been one of the hottest hitters in the Pacific Coast League over the first two weeks of the season.

The Portland native carried a .362 batting average into Saturday’s game, with three home runs and 11 RBIs. Nine of Gillespie’s 17 hits have been for extra bases, leading to a .702 slugging percentage.

Add in the fact that he is a right-handed hitter, and you can see how the lefty-dominant Mariners might call on Gillespie at some point this season.

Gillespie finished last season as a reserve outfielder for the Chicago Cubs. He signed a minor league contract with the Mariners in November — an easy decision for the product of West Linn (Ore.) High School and Oregon State.

“I thought Seattle would be a good fit for me,” Gillespie said. “Growing up in the Portland area, I have a lot of friends and family down there, and hopefully they can come up and catch some games.”

Gillespie helped lead Oregon State to its first College World Series championship in 2006. The Milwaukee Brewers drafted him in the third round that summer.

Gillespie reached Triple-A Nashville in 2009, then was traded midseason to the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.

Gillespie became a mainstay with the Reno Aces, hitting in the middle of their lineup from 2010 to 2012.

He has played in 78 major league games with the Diamondbacks, Cubs and San Francisco Giants. Now he hopes to add the Mariners to his list.

“I was a big (Ken) Griffey fan growing up, and (Jay) Buhner and all of those guys,” Gillespie said. “Those were some fun teams to watch.”

HIGH DESERT HR BINGE

Mariners Advanced-A corner infielder Patrick Kivlehan went on a power surge in the California League last week, launching five home runs in a four-game span for High Desert.

He hit all of them against the Houston Astros’ Lancaster affiliate.

The Rutgers product started with a two-run blast Tuesday.

Kivlehan did not hit a home run Wednesday, but then had back-to-back two-homer games Thursday and Friday.

Kivlehan is hitting .318 with seven homers and 16 RBIs through 16 games. He’s tied with Toledo Mud Hens outfielder J.D. Martinez for the minor league home run lead.

The 24-year-old is somewhat new to baseball, focusing on football until his senior year at Rutgers.

Last year he received a midseason promotion from low Single-A Clinton to High Desert, and a move up to Double-A Jackson is likely during this season.

Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.

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