The Seattle Mariners weren’t the only ones to get relief just before the trading deadline Thursday night.
So did Ken Cloude, the Mariners’ top minor-league prospect.
“He’s spent too much time the last few days wondering where he’s going to be and I think that’s affected his pitching,” said Dave Brundage, Cloude’s manager at Class AA Memphis. Cloude is 10-6 with a 4.08 ERA for the Chicks and he has 115 strikeouts in 124 innings.
“His last outing was probably his worst of the year, and I think it was because of all this trade talk,” Brundage said. “There were a bunch of scouts in the stands watching him and I think he let that bother him.
“You could just tell he was relieved when he found out he was going to stay with the Mariners. He wants to pitch in this organization.”
While the Mariners were dealing away some of their other top young talent Thursday night in a last-ditch effort to fix their struggling bullpen, Cloude wasn’t touched.
“That’s a big compliment for that kid,” Brundage said. “The Mariners know this kid is valuable.”
But the Mariners couldn’t hold on to all of their minor-league stars. The Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers lost pitcher Derek Lowe and catcher and former first-round draft pick Jason Varitek. The Mariners received Boston closer Heathcliff Slocumb for the youngsters.
Despite losing two of their finest young talents, Larry Beinfest, the Mariners’ director of player development, says the club’s minor-league system is in good shape.
“We’re not gutted,” Beinfest said. “We lost some quality players that I hate to see go, but you have to trade quality to get quality.
“Hopefully these moves are just what we need to put the bullpen over the top.”
Beinfest says the strength of the M’s farm system is still young pitching.
Cloude is the club’s top prospect, Robert Luce of Memphis is 13-2 this year, Dennis Stark of Class A Lancaster has a 2.17 ERA, Gil Meche of Class A Everett has a 3-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, Class A Wisconsin’s Greg Wooten is a talented project, Tacoma’s Ryan Franklin has a 2.94 ERA and Lancaster’s Joe Mays is 14-4. All are 24 years old or younger.
While Beinfest insists there will be no long-term fallout from Thursday’s deals, the organization spent Friday reshuffling.
The Mariners optioned Edwin Hurtado to Tacoma and designated Mark Holzemer for assignment. Light-hitting catcher Scot Sealy was promoted from Memphis to Tacoma to back up Steve Decker. Decker is expected to take Varitek’s starting job.
The Rainiers are used to new faces. Lowe was called up twice this season, as was Holzemer and Hurtado. Still, Rainiers manager Dave Myers says this transition will not be easy.
“Any time you lose a starting pitcher and your starting catcher it is going to affect the team,” Myers said. “But we have the talent to deal with this.”