SEATTLE — When the Mariners found themselves in need of a starting pitcher Friday at Triple-A Tacoma, after recalling Roenis Elias, it’s no surprise that they reached down an extra level to promote right-hander Darren McCaughan from Hi-A Modesto.
McCaughan, 22, was coming off a May in which he went 2-1 with an 0.86 ERA in five starts for the Nuts in the hitter-friendly California League. He then pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings for the Rainiers in a 4-1 victory over Salt Lake.
Even without his impressive Triple-A debut, McCaughan is an easy choice as the Mariners’ minor-league pitcher of the month for May. He struck out 28 and walked just three in 31 1/3 innings over his five May starts at Modesto.
McCaughan was sent back to Modesto after Friday’s game.
KLAY picks a player and pitcher of the month throughout the season for each of the Mariners’ affiliates and an overall player and pitcher of the month for the entire farm system.
Rainiers first baseman/DH Daniel Vogelbach is the player of the month for May after compiling a .329/.465/.684 slash (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 23 games. He also had seven homers and 18 RBIs.
McCaughan’s name is pronounced Mc-CACK-en, according to Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto. It could be worth remembering — given the Mariners’ penchant for trading pitching prospects to bolster their big-league club.
The latest example came May 25 when they sent Lo-A Clinton right-hander Tommy Romero, the organization’s pitcher of the month for April, along with Double-A right-hander Andrew Moore to Tampa Bay for reliever Alex Colome and outfielder Denard Span.
“I talked to Tommy Romero on the phone when he got traded,” amateur scouting director Scott Hunter said. “I kind of blamed him. `You’re pitching so good (that Tampa Bay wanted you)!’ It’s a 15th-round pick, and he got off to a great start.”
Moore had been picked as the April pitcher of the month at Arkansas.
Vogelbach’s success at Tacoma is no surprise. He was the Rainiers’ representative last season in the Triple-A All-Star Game at Cheney Stadium, but he has yet to carry that success into the majors in a series of limited opportunities.
Some farm items to note:
***Right-hander Sam Carlson, a second-round pick in last year’s draft, is throwing again in his recovery from a sore elbow. It was previously feared he might require Tommy John surgery.
“We were being cautious with him,” Hunter said. “He’s a cold-weather kid who, for the first time ever, had some elbow issues. Some soreness. Being precautionary, they puts the reins on him.”
Call it cautious optimism, but concerns won’t go away until Carlson is pitching regularly in games.
***Outfielder Kyle Lewis, the organization’s top prospect, is off to an encouraging start at Modesto after returning last month from his latest knee surgery. A healthy Lewis would be a big boost to the farm system.
***Outfielder Eric Filia, 25, came out smoking with 10 hits in his first 18 at-bats at Arkansas after returning from a 50-game suspension for a second failed test for a drug of abuse.
Filia batted .326 last season at Modesto and led the California League with a .407 on-base percentage before putting up strong numbers in the Arizona Fall League. He was ticketed for big-league camp invite prior to his suspension.
Onto the May individual affiliate selections:
***Tacoma: Vogelbach and another familiar name, left-hander Ariel Miranda, who was 4-0 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts. Miranda made a spot start for the Mariners in April and likely remains first in line if the rotation needs help.
***Arkansas: Second baseman/shortstop Chris Mariscal, 25, is a fifth-year pro who slashed .330/.411/.464 with 16 RBIs in 26 games. Right-handed reliever Matt Festa, who had an invitation this spring to big-league camp, was 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA and four saves in four chances in 10 games. Festa, 25, was a seventh-round pick in 2016.
***Modesto: McCaughan and second baseman/shortstop Donnie Walton, who slashed .307/.425/.420 in 24 games. Walton, 24 was a sixth-round pick in 2016.
***Clinton: Outfielder Jack Larsen, 25, is the only repeat selection after slashing .298/.426./490 with 16 RBIs in 32 games. Right-handed reliever Scott Boches, 23, was 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in nine games while striking out 22 and walking just three in 17 1/3 innings.
KLAY PLAYER OF THE MONTH
Overall: Tacoma 1B/DH Daniel Vogelbach
Tacoma: 1B/DH Daniel Vogelbach
Arkansas: 2B/SS Chris Mariscal
Modesto: 2B/SS Donnie Walton
Clinton: OF Jack Larson
Overall: Modesto SS Bryson Brigman
Tacoma: OF Cameron Perkins
Arkansas: 1B Joey Curletta
Modesto: SS Bryson Brigman
Clinton: OF Jack Larson
KLAY PITCHER OF THE MONTH
Overall: Modesto RHP Darren McCaughan
Tacoma: LHP Ariel Miranda
Arkansas: RHP Matt Festa
Modesto: RHP Darren McCaughan
Clinton: RHP Scott Boches
Overall: Clinton RHP Tommy Romero
Tacoma: RHP Eric Goeddel
Arkansas: RHP Andrew Moore
Modesto: RHP Wyatt Mills
Clinton: RHP Tommy Romero