Brandon Maurer | The Mariners Surprise Starter

Seattle Mariners fans are waiting patiently for the arrival of several hyped pitching prospects. They’ve been itching to see Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen in Seattle for years. Well, one of the M’s young guns is finally ready for his big league debut, but it’s not one of the ‘Big Three’. Instead, it’s starting pitcher Brandon Maurer.

Brandon Maurer Seattle Mariners

Brandon Maurer

Maurer is in the Mariners’ rotation after a stellar spring (beating out Erasmo Ramirez and Jeremy Bonderman for the roster spot). The 22-year-old (that’s right…he’s only 22) finished 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA in Cactus League play. He only allowed 23 hits and seven walks in 24 innings, while also striking out 25. His most impressive performance was happened on March 25th against the Reds. Maurer struck out seven batters over seven shutout innings.

Brandon Maurer is originally from Newport Beach, California. He was selected by Seattle in the 23rd round of the 2008 MLB Draft. Here’s the crazy thing — he’s never pitched above AA. Maurer spent the entire 2012 season with the Jackson Generals (the Mariners AA affiliate). Maurer, who is listed as 6’5″ and 215 pounds, went 9-2 with a 3.20 ERA last year. That was enough for him to be tabbed as the M’s sixth best prospect by Baseball America over the offseason.

I hate the throw up a red flag, but Brandon Maurer has battled injuries his entire career. He fought through elbow woes in 2010 and shoulder issues in 2011, but he’s avoided surgery the entire time. Maurer was finally healthy during the 2012 season, but he still only pitched 137.2 innings. That’s easily a career high for him, because Maurer has averaged just 64 innings over his first five professional seasons.

Brandon Maurer Mariners

Brandon Maurer

If Maurer stays healthy, Baseball America says he’s capable of throwing four solid pitches. He’s best known for his 93-95 mph fastball (which tops out at 97 mph) and his “swing-and-miss” slider. His curveball and change-up are apparently a work in progress, but they obviously worked well for him this spring. At the same time, it shows that Maurer is still a work in progress and there’s bound to be some growing pains this season.

I know people don’t put a lot of stock in spring training stats, but Brandon Maurer proved he’s ready for the bigs. He didn’t just face no-name minor leaguers; he went up against big league batters (especially later in the spring). There’s plenty of reason to be excited about this kid. He’s young, but he’s talented. Maurer is the first of what’s going to be a solid wave of pitching prospects heading to Safeco Field in the near future.

What do you think of Brandon Maurer? Do you think he’s ready for the big leagues? I would love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and . Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for the latest on the world of sports, music and travel!

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Carter Capps | Ready For His Major League Debut

Carter Capps | Ready For His Major League Debut

Every little boy wants to be a professional athlete. I know I dreamed for hours upon hours of playing Major League Baseball. There was nothing more I wanted in life. Unfortunately, my dream never came true (I had to settle for the next best thing — being a sportscaster instead), but I’m fortunate enough to be around others — like Carter Capps – who are reaching their childhood goals.

Carter Capps Seattle Mariners Baseball

Me interviewing Carter Capps after he was called up
Courtesy: Geoff Baker

Capps is living a dream right now. The 21-year-old was just called up to the big leagues for the first time. Instead of being one of hundreds of minor leaguers in the Seattle Mariners system, the relief pitcher is now one of 25 players on the M’s big league roster — ready to make his Major League debut.

I was there when Capps stepped foot on Safeco Field for the first time.

“It’s a lot taller than I thought it was,” Capps told me as he looked around the ballpark with wide eyes. “There are a lot of seats. You don’t really appreciate that when you see it on TV, but it’s different when you’re here. It’s nice.”

It didn’t take Capps long to make it to Seattle. He was a third round draft pick last year out of Mount Olive College (a DII school) in North Carolina. He struggled with his control in four minor league outings last season, but quickly took off this year. Capps registered 19 saves and a 1.26 ERA in 38 games with the AA Jackson Generals before pitching one game (he struck out three of the four batters he faced) with AAA Tacoma. He’s now in the bigs – making him only the second player from the 2011 draft to earn a call to the majors (Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Trevor Bauer was the first).

“I thought someone was messing with me, but luckily they weren’t,” Capps said about his promotion to Seattle. “It’s definitely a blessing. I’m really happy about it.”

Capps is a boy among men. He honestly looks like he’s 12-years-old. That’s either a sign of my age own age (31) or it shows just how quickly the kid jolted through the system. No matter what he looks like, Capps is a hot commodity because he can fire a fastball 100 mph with some command. The only advice he’s received so far from his new teammates: “Pound the zone and don’t treat [the Major Leagues] different than any other level.”

“This is what you play for ever since you’re a little kid,” Capps told me. “It’s definitely a dream come true.”

The best part is — we get to be there every step of the way. Carter Capps’ Major League career is wide open. He could become the next Mariano Rivera, or he might be the next Bobby Ayala (Mariners fans understand the reference). I hope I look back on this post 25 years from now and Capps will be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame (nothing like throwing some pressure on the kid, right?), but only time will tell…

Until then, let’s just enjoy the ride with him.

UPDATE: Carter Capps made his Major League debut on August 3, 2012. He pitched against the New York Yankees — in Yankee Stadium (not the easiest of places to debut). Capps allowed two runs (both were scored after he was relieved by Oliver Perez) on one hit over one-third of an inning of work. He also recorded one walk and no strikeouts, but hit the 100 mph mark several times, including his very first pitch in the big leagues. Click here for video of Capps debut.

I would love to hear from you about everything baseball. You can leave a comment right here or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook. Your questions and comments are always welcome. Don’t forget to also check out more great sports coverage right now on http://allaroundtim.com!

 

Training Camp | The Life Of An NFL Rookie

Training camps are underway all over the National Football League. That means roster spots and playing time are up for grabs around the country. While camp is old news for the veterans (some even try to avoid it like the plague), this is a brand new world for the rookies. These guys were just college students a few months ago, and now they’re professional football players. They’re forced to grow up fast — and if they don’t — they get left in the dust.

Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson

There are major differences between college football and the NFL. The adjustments are different for every rookie. Seahawks fifth round pick Korey Toomer (a linebacker out of Idaho) says the mental part of the NFL game is the toughest, especially understanding the playbook and learning from the veterans. Third rounder Russell Wilson (a quarterback from Wisconsin) echoed that sentiment, saying he spends nine hours a day studying the playbook. He also said that he tries to learn at least three new things at practice every single day. So, instead of learning math or history like they were a few months ago — rookies are now students of the game.

“I put my best foot forward every time” Wilson explained to me. “I’m going to compete, because that’s the way I was raised my entire life.”

First round draft pick Bruce Irvin (a linebacker out of West Virginia) isn’t concerned with the mental aspect; he just has a hard time with the six o’clock wake-up call every morning. He says all the rookies are up early, and then they have to spend extra hours (that the veterans don’t) at the training facility every day, so that makes for really long days. Aside from all that, Irvin says the speed of the NFL is the biggest difference for him.

“Everybody is fast,” he said. “Tackles are big, athletic dudes that move like power forwards in the [NBA].”

We often focus on the glitz and glamor of playing in the NFL, but that’s not the lifestyle for most rookies. These guys are constantly fighting for their professional lives — one mistake can mean the end of their football careers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the rookies say, “I have to make the most of my opportunities.” From Bruce Irvin (who’s guaranteed a roster spot), to fourth round running back Robert Turbin, to seventh round defensive end Greg Scruggs — they’re all determined to make an impression at camp.

“Every time you come out to practice, someone is trying to win a spot,” said second round pick Bobby Wagner (a linebacker from Utah State). “If you come here asleep, someone will take your job.”

“I’m just trying to earn a spot on the team,” said Korey Toomer. “Whether it’s special teams or anything else the coach wants me to do, wherever they want to put me, that’s where I’ll play.”

Bruce Irvin Seattle Seahawks Linebacker

Seattle Seahawks rookie linebacker Bruce Irvin

On top of all the adjustments they have to make and the fierce competition, the rookies also have to deal with some light-hearted hazing. Toomer says he hasn’t faced anything yet, but he knows it’s coming. Irvin also says he hasn’t been “tied to any goalposts” yet, but he does have to carry a veteran’s shoulder pads and helmet out to the practice field every day. Wagner is dealing with the same chore. I saw him lugging around Leroy Hill’s gear after practice. I have a feeling the worst is yet to come for these guys. If the Seahawks are anything like the Seattle Mariners, the rookies will have to carry around ’Hello Kitty’ backpacks — a right of passage for first-year pitchers on the M’s roster.

Don’t get me wrong. This post isn’t meant to expose the plight of an NFL rookie. These guys are loving every second of this. They’ve worked their entire lives to reach this point. When I asked Korey Toomer if he was having fun at training camp he quickly replied yes, and added that “football is always fun.” Russell Wilson agrees. He repeatedly told me that it’s a blessing for him to be competing in an NFL camp. Even if they don’t earn a starting role or even a roster spot, these guys have reached a pinnacle that most of us can only dream about. They’re in the frickin’ NFL — getting paid to play football.

I’m always down to talk football, so I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment right here or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, and don’t forget you can get more great sports coverage right now on http://allaroundtim.com!