Mariners open Arizona Fall League season
Two top-20 prospects record hits; pitcher throws two scoreless in loss
Mariners top-20 prospects Stefen Romero and Patrick Kivlehan each had a hit, and left-hander Kyle Hunter pitched two scoreless innings Tuesday as the Peoria Javelinas lost their Arizona Fall League opener to Surprise, 7-6, in Surprise, Ariz.
The three Mariners farmhands are among seven Seattle players on the Javelinas squad in the six-team AFL, which features top youngsters from all 30 Major League organizations in a 31-game, five-week season.
Hunter was a late replacement on the Peoria team, taking the place of left-hander Danny Hultzen, who had surgery to repair a tear in his rotator cuff last week. Hunter, 24, went 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA in 34 appearances for Double-A Jackson after an early promotion from Class A Advanced High Desert this past season.
Hunter on Tuesday allowed just one hit with no runs, no walks and three strikeouts while pitching the fourth and fifth innings in his debut for the Javelinas. He was a 31st-round Draft pick out of Kansas State in 2011.
Romero and Kivlehan are better-known prospects in the Mariners' system. Romero, 24, is the Mariners' No. 7 prospect, according to MLB.com's rankings, and hit .277 with 11 home runs and 74 RBIs for Tacoma this past season after getting a late start because of an oblique injury. The former Oregon State standout went 1-for-3 and scored two runs Tuesday while playing left field.
Kivlehan, 23, went 1-for-4 at designated hitter Tuesday. The former Rutgers football player hit .303 with 16 homers and 90 RBIs while splitting last season between Class A Clinton and High Desert. Kivelhan is Seattle's No. 16 prospect in MLB.com's rankings.
Four other Mariners players -- pitchers Brandon Maurer, Dominic Leone and Carson Smith and shortstop Chris Taylor -- did not participate in Tuesday's AFL opener. Maurer is the only one of Seattle's seven representatives who has played in the Majors as he went 5-8 with a 6.30 ERA in 22 games (14 starts) for the Mariners as a rookie.
Leone and Smith are hard-throwing right-handed relievers who competed for Jackson this past year, while Taylor earned the Mariners' Minor League Player of the Year honors after hitting .314 while splitting the season between High Desert and Jackson.
The Peoria squad is made up of players from the Mariners, Royals, Astros, Padres and Phillies and is managed by Jim Pankovits, who has led the Mariners' Double-A Jackson team the past three years.
The Javelinas host Surprise in a rematch Wednesday afternoon at Peoria Stadium.