The C.J. in the name of former Seattle Mariners relief pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser stands for Charles Joseph.
At 12 letters, Riefenhauser shared the longest last name in franchise history with Ryan Rowland-Smith, whose distinction should have required an asterisk because, c’mon, it included a hyphen.
Riefenhauser was born in the New York City suburb of Yonkers, home of the harness track the late Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney bought in 1972 and bequeathed to his sons.
I was planning to learn much more about the Yonkers native with 12 letters in his last name, but Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto announced Wednesday that Riefenhauser, picked up less than a month ago in a six-player deal with Tampa Bay, had been traded to Baltimore for backup catcher Steve Clevenger, who shouldn’t be confused with Cleveland pitching prospect Mike Clevenger.
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As Dipoto continues to wheel and deal at the speed of sound, I find myself forced to admit something that embarrasses me: Many of the players he’s targeted for the new-look Mariners are guys whose names I don’t recognize.
Center fielder Leonys Martin, reliever Joaquin Benoit and catcher Chris Iannetta ring familiar. So does outfielder Nori Aoki, whose passing of a physical Thursday qualified him to own, at eight letters, one of the shortest full names in Mariners history. (Though, again, an asterisk is warranted: Aoki’s full first name is Norichika.)
But I know little about Luis Sardinas, other than he’s a switch-inning infielder Dipoto acquired from Milwaukee in the trade that sent pitcher Ramon Flores to the Brewers.
I see a name like Luis Sardinas, and the first person I think of is Leo Cardenas, a slick-fielding Cincinnati Reds shortstop during the 1960s. Which is kind of the crux of my problem: My brain is stuffed with useless information gleaned decades ago off baseball cards, and there’s no delete key to make room for Leo, er, Luis Sardinas.
Between us? When Dipoto pulled the trigger on the Tampa Bay deal that made right-handed reliever Anthony Bass part of the Mariners bullpen, I thought of Randy Bass, a journeyman outfielder who went on to enjoy superstardom in Japan. His 54 homers in 1985 were one short of Sadaharu Oh’s single-season record, but Bass was denied a chance to break the mark when the opposing pitcher intentionally walked him through the duration of the regular-season finale.
See what I mean? Memories of Randy make it a challenge to recognize Anthony, a five-year veteran who has pitched for San Diego, Houston and Texas.
Give me some time, and I’ll be able to differentiate Anthony Bass from Randy Bass, and waiver-claimed first baseman Andy Wilkins from former Cubs catching prospect Rick Wilkins, and starting pitcher Nathan Karns from well-traveled, recently retired outfielder Austin Kearns.
Give me some time, I’ll find out why Dipoto just signed free-agent reliever Justin De Fratus to a one-year, $750,000 contract after a season that ended with the Philadelphia right-hander posting an ERA (5.51) only marginally better than Fernando Rodney’s 5.68 in a Seattle uniform.
About De Fratus, I already know this much: He’s a deep thinker whose interests include writing music and playing guitar. He has talked about the possibility of taking religious-education classes at a seminary when he retires from baseball.
Getting acquainted with the likes of De Fratus, Karns, Bass and Clevenger, and watching them get acquainted with each other, will provide some fresh-spice intrigue when pitchers and catchers report to spring training in February.
Dipoto isn’t done, by the way. Despite identifying an experienced top-of-the-order hitter in Aoki — his .357 on-base percentage ranked fourth highest among NL leadoff men last season — and his aggressive moves to convert the Mariners from plodders to scrappers, voids remain in the starting rotation and at first base.
Baseball’s winter meetings begin Monday in Nashville, where the forecast is calling for four days of flurries on the trade front. Dipoto will be in the middle of it. The odds are long he leaves Opryland without acquiring another starter, not to mention a more plausible alternative at first base than a platoon of Jesus Montero and Andy Wilkins.
Whatever happens, I am prepared for the possibility the Mariners’ next important acquisition will be as unfamiliar to me as C.J. Riefenhauser was.
Twelve letters, without a hyphen, in that last name. While beat reporters who’ll be filing late-game stories on deadline at Safeco Field owe Dipoto some thanks, my dusty and cluttered old mind takes me back to the Mariners’ inaugural season, when utility man Joe Lis appeared in nine games.
Lis, in 1977, had as many hits as letters in his last name.
I’m not greedy. All I want for Christmas is a delete key.
John McGrath: firstname.lastname@example.org