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Mariners pitching prospect Logan Gilbert solid in Triple-A debut, earns first Rainiers win

News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. logoNews Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. 5/8/2021 Lauren Smith, The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

May 8—Logan Gilbert's first career start at the Triple-A level couldn't have gone much smoother.

More than 600 days after his most recent minor league start with Double-A Arkansas back in 2019, the young right-hander — who is the No. 4 prospect in the Mariners' system, per MLB Pipeline — looked like he hadn't missed a beat Friday night in Tacoma.

Gilbert worked quickly and efficiently through El Paso's lineup twice in his Rainiers debut, allowing one run on four hits while striking out five in five innings. He threw 67 pitches, including 47 for strikes.

"Logan pitched great today," Rainiers first-year manager Kristopher Negron said. "That's just what Logan does. That's the first time I've really got to see him really dig into the bump and throw and it's impressive. His mentality from first pitch on was great. Even after he knew he was coming out he was still locked in wanting to go back out there."

Gilbert, who celebrated his 24th birthday Wednesday, left the game after his scheduled five frames with a two-run lead, and the Rainiers held on for an 8-2 victory, closing out their first win of the season while handing Gilbert his in front of 2,313 at Cheney Stadium.

"It was great being out there," Gilbert said. "Big win for the team. Everybody is pumped up and excited right now."

Gilbert retired each of the first six batters he faced, including striking out three consecutive between the first and second innings. He got Luis Campusano, the Padres' No. 3 prospect, Patrick Kivlehan and and Brian O'Grady all swinging.

Webster Rivas and Ivan Castillo checked in with back-to-back singles to lead off the third against Gilbert, and Tucupita Marcano drove in a run on a bunt base hit, but that was all Gilbert allowed.

He worked around a leadoff infield base hit in the fourth, and retired the final six batters he faced in order, including striking out John Andreoli to end the fourth, and Pedro Florimon looking to end his outing in the fifth.

Gilbert said earlier this week he had built up to about 70 pitches during his final spring training start in Arizona, which is about what he was projected to throw Friday.

"I felt like I could have went more, but it was good just getting five innings, getting built up, and hopefully continue to build up next start," he said.

Gilbert said, more than anything, he felt good just being back on the mound after such a long stretch without games.

"It was great to have the crowd and feel that energy," he said.

Gilbert is considered the No. 28 prospect in all of baseball. He was Seattle's top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft out of Florida's Stetson University.

He jumped three levels of the minors in his first professional season in 2019, finishing with a 10-5 record and 2.13 ERA across 26 starts between Low-A West Virginia, High-A Modesto and Arkansas, and struck out 165 batters while walking 33 in 135 innings.

Without a minor league season in 2020, Gilbert spent the summer training at the Mariners' alternate site at Cheney Stadium, continuing to refine his pitch mix.

When the Mariners sent three starters to the injured list in April — including James Paxton (forearm), who has since had season-ending Tommy John surgery, Nick Margevicius (shoulder inflammation), and ace Marco Gonzales (forearm strain) — many wondered if Gilbert might join the rotation earlier than expected.

The Mariners have remained steadfast with their plan to develop Gilbert — like their other top prospects — fully before bringing him to Seattle, but, especially after performances like the one he turned in Friday night against an El Paso club that is part of San Diego's sixth-ranked farm system, Gilbert may not remain in Tacoma for very long.

RAINIERS GET TO GORE

Gilbert wasn't the only top pitching prospect making his Triple-A debut Friday night in Tacoma.

MacKenzie Gore, the Padres' top prospect and the No. 6 overall prospect in baseball, also took the mound for his first start with El Paso.

The 22-year-old left-hander, who was San Diego's first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, pitched in both High-A and Double-A in 2019, posting a 9-2 record and 1.69 ERA across 20 starts and striking out 135 while walking 28 in 101 innings.

But, the Rainiers eventually got to Gore in his first outing of the season, tagging him with three runs and a loss.

"Tough pitcher on the bump with Gore, but everybody held their own and stuck to their plans and we slowly got on him and came out with the win," Negron said. "It was a great team effort offensively. "

Gore worked out of traffic in the first inning — Mariners top prospect Jarred Kelenic hit a single to lead off the game and stole a base, and No. 8 prospect Cal Raleigh walked to give Tacoma a pair of early base runners — without damage.

The Rainiers put two more base runners on the following two innings — Sam Travis and Jantzen Witte singled in the second, and Raleigh doubled and Eric Filia walked in the third — but Gore worked out of the jams again before turning in a lean fourth.

But, in the fifth, Tacoma finally broke through. Kelenic drew a walk and Braden Bishop was hit by a pitch to give the Rainiers a pair of base runners with no outs. Donovan Walton then lined a two-run double to right center to give Tacoma a 2-1 lead it never lost.

Gore was pulled from the game at that point, but was charged with another run when a sac fly from Filia pushed Walton across.

Gore tossed four-plus innings, allowed the three runs on five hits, walked three, struck out three and hit a batter on 94 pitches.

NEGRON'S FIRST WIN

Negron's first managerial win had a fitting conclusion.

The Rainiers had a decisive six-run lead in the ninth, but Bishop — a former Tacoma teammate of Negron's when he was with Seattle's organization as a player from 2018-19 — added some fireworks on the game's final play.

Marcano sent a drive to the gap in left center, but Bishop dove, and slid several feet as he made the grab to seal the win.

"I still feel a little jittery right now," Negron said postgame. "It's really cool. The guys brought me in the clubhouse and had a little something. They kept the final out that Bishop dove and caught, which I think is pretty sweet because Bishop's a former teammate of mine who I love a lot, so him making that play at the very end for my first win is special.

"It's a great group of guys. I'm getting a little emotional right now just thinking about it, talking about it, because I just love that group."

SHORT HOPS

Tacoma's offense unloaded on El Paso's bullpen in the sixth, sending 11 batters to the plate and scratching across five more runs. A Kelenic single, Walton walk and Raleigh sacrifice fly scored runs before a two-run double by Travis pushed the lead to 8-1. ... Former Rainier Andreoli's solo shot to left center in the seventh off Ben Onyshko was El Paso's first homer of the season, and accounted for the Chihuahuas only other run of the game. ... Kelenic finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored, an RBI, a walk, strikeout and stolen base in his second Triple-A game while Raleigh was 1-for-3 with an RBI, walk and strikeout. ... Walton led the Rainiers, finishing 2-for-4 with two runs scored, the double, three RBI, a walk and a strikeout.

ON TAP

The Rainiers (1-1) host the Chihuahuas (1-1) in the third game of this six-game series at 5:05 p.m. Saturday. Tacoma is scheduled to send left-hander Hector Santiago out to oppose El Paso right-hander Brett Kennedy.

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