Brown reflects on Rainiers’ season so far

// Youth movement to highlight second half

Daren Brown is in his sixth season managing the Tacoma Rainiers. Earlier this year, on May 28, he recorded his 376th win as the skipper of the Tacoma Rainiers, to become the winningest manager ever of a Tacoma team. Brown is now the third manager out of Tacoma’s last five to become the franchise leader in win-loss record, surpassing the mark of 375 wins set by Dan Rohn over his five-year stint managing at Tacoma from 2001-05. But the team currently resides at the bottom of the Pacific North Division in the Pacific Coast League, 14 games behind Reno. Their overall record is 38-51 at the All Star break (July 12). Brown sat down recently to assess the first half of the season and preview the second half with Tacoma Weekly baseball correspondent Karen Westeen.

TW: During the first half the team has been in first place only three days and has been last in their division for most of it. Do these ups and downs have a lot to do with transactions and key injuries in first half? (Over 65 player moves were made as of July 1.)

DB: Some of it has to do with injuries but we had some guys that didn’t perform up to their expectations and a lot of it early on was we didn’t pitch very well. Most of the time we’re in the top eight to 12 teams in the league. The starting five at the first of year was Matt Fox, Jeff Marquez, Anthony Vasquez, Mauricio Robles and Forrest Snow. None of them are in the rotation now and none are in the big leagues. We’re still in the midst of making changes. Our Double-A club (in Jackson, Tennessee) is doing well. They won the first half, and we promoted some guys up here after that who were deserving of a promotion, but at the same time it takes some time for them to get adjusted and we’re still going through some of that. We have to continue and try to see how we can get better.

TW: Danny Hultzen was Seattle’s first-round draft pick and he is already at Triple-A. In fact the night he made his home debut on June 28 he was matched up against Jamie Moyer, who is 27 years older than Hultzen. How did that work out for Hultzen?

DB: Of course there was a lot of media for Hultzen and he has handled it really well. His last start was his first one at home, and I thought he handled it a little better, but he still has a lot of areas to improve.

TW: Was Moyer still with the Mariners when you first started managing with the organization?

DB: Yes. I knew Moyer in Seattle. He’s a great guy. He would come over to minor league camp in spring training, talk to our young pitchers as a group. I sat and listened to him talk. He’s a guy that’s been around a long time, he’s done some things right.

TW: You mentioned that none of the pitchers who were in the rotation at the start of the season are with the Rainiers now. Who are the current starters?

DB: Andrew Carraway, Steve Garrison (just promoted from Double-A), Blake Beaven, Hultzen and Brian Sweeney. A few young guys, a couple of veteran guys. A good mix. Sweeney is a valuable guy (because he can make a) spot start and also come out of the pen.

TW: This year there were two Rainiers elected to the Triple-A All Star team for the first time in three years, DH Luis Jimenez (elected as a starter) and catcher Giullermo Quiroz (reserve catcher.) If managers could name another player to the team who would it be?

DB: Luis Rodriguez. He’s been solid for us the whole year, played second, some short and first. That’s what he’s done here and at the big league level. He has been our most consistent hitter night in and night out, given us a professional at-bat every time he goes to the plate. I don’t have to worry about him. (I know) every night I’m going to get four quality ABs.

TW: What are you going to do over the All-Star Break?

DB: I’m going home to Amarillo, Texas and spend some time with my wife and 20-month-old daughter.

TW: During the first half you’ve had a really ditzy schedule playing several games against the same team such as four here against Salt Lake then three more right after that in Salt Lake. Has that had any effect on the team?

DB: It does when the other team is really good. I don’t think it’s ever good to do that and I’d rather not. We’ve got some more coming up (eight against Tucson in the end of July and nine against Las Vegas (five home, four away) at the end of August.) Sometimes the schedule just works that way but if we’re playing well it doesn’t matter who we’re playing.

TW: How is it going working with your new hitting coach Jeff Pentland?

DB: Pentland has a lot to offer to these young players who can profit from his 15 years of experience in the big leagues as a hitting coach. He has a lot of knowledge that should help these kids, get them heading in the right direction.

TW: What should the fans watch for in the second half?

DB: Just before the break we started an infield with Alex Liddi at first, Nick Franklin at second, Vinnie Catricala at third and Carlos Triunfel at short. Everybody was under 24 years old. That doesn’t happen very often. We look at these young guys as possibly being the future of the big league club. It doesn’t mean they’re ready to go up. They’re down here for a reason. But it’s always exciting to see some of these guys at Triple-A for the first time, realize where they’re at, how close they are. They’re excited when things start clicking for them. Next time you get the call it could be your chance to go where you’re trying to get. It ought to be exciting going into the second half.

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