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Opinion: Mariano juggling the shirt names with River Cats

River Cats manager Bob Mariano (19) meets with Jeff Savage, River Cats’ President during the Opening Day game between the Sacramento River Cats and Salt Lake City Bees at Raley Field in West Sacramento, Calif.
River Cats manager Bob Mariano (19) meets with Jeff Savage, River Cats’ President during the Opening Day game between the Sacramento River Cats and Salt Lake City Bees at Raley Field in West Sacramento, Calif. jvillegas@sacbee.com

In minor-league baseball, even the seamstresses have to step up.

Players move up and down, in and out, from Richmond, Va., to Sacramento to San Francisco. Somebody has to stitch the names on the shirts, and these days, they’ve got the River Cats’ sewing machines buzzing fast under deadline pressure.

In the past nine days, starting pitchers Kevin Correia, Robert Coello and Juan Gutierrez opted out of their contracts with the parent-club Giants. To replace them, the Giants brought in a couple guys from Double-A Richmond while the sewing machines whirred.

“It’s just the way it is in Triple A,” River Cats manager Bob Mariano said Saturday night after his team beat Tacoma 4-2. “You’re constantly and adding and subtracting.”

Correia, 34, made the National League All-Star team four years ago when he pitched in Pittsburgh. He got into six games this year in Sacramento before he chose to explore the free-agent market. Coello, 30, was tied for the Pacific Coast League lead in wins with six. Gutierrez, 31, with 264 games of major-league experience, wants a call despite underwhelming numbers here.

“They took their outs,” Mariano said. “So that creates opportunities for the guys from Double A.”

More than 12,000 people filled most of Raley Field on Saturday night to watch Jake Peavy get in some work on a rehab assignment from the Giants. The 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner looked great until the fourth inning when Tacoma’s Franklin Gutierrez bombed one to the roof of the equipment building in center. Estimated distance: 430 feet.

Peavy walked a guy on a 3-2 count in the fifth and screamed a cuss word audible in the second deck. He reached his designated pitch count one batter later before hauling home to the Bay Area.

Mariano replaced Peavy with one of those Double-A pitchers from Richmond. Jack Snodgrass joined the Cats in Oklahoma City but didn’t pitch there. Saturday night, Snodgrass, his name freshly sewn to his jersey, pitched at the highest level of his professional career. He came out of it a winner.

“It was fantastic,” the 6-foot-6 left-hander said of the experience. “We knew Peavy was just going to be out there for an allotment of pitches. I knew my appearance wasn’t going to be a start, that it would be kind of a bizarro start.”

Snodgrass, 27, soon enough will be less bizzaro and more regular in the River Cats’ rotation. The collegian from Austin Peay in Tennessee who also went to law school a little before his baseball career got untracked threw 32/3 scoreless innings Saturday night.

Jack Snodgrass threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings and earned the victory in his Triple-A debut.

“This is my peak,” Snodgrass said. “Hopefully, I’m not going to peak too early, like the hot girl in high school. I’m just like any other guy in this locker room. We all want to be in the big leagues.”

As of Saturday night, the River Cats’ locker room wasn’t big enough to hold Snodgrass. He had to dress in the hallway outside. Same with Chris Stratton, another Double-A transplant from Richmond.

Stratton is another big guy (6-3) from college (Mississippi State). A first-round pick (20th overall) by the Giants in 2012, Stratton made his Triple-A debut Friday night in OKC. He pitched a solid six-plus innings but didn’t get a decision in the River Cats’ 7-2, 12-inning victory.

Besides the rotation, Mariano is juggling new shirts in the position spots. Last Monday, the Giants signed former major-league utilityman Kevin Frandsen, 33, to a minor-league contract and sent him to Sacramento. Mariano loves the guy he once worked with as San Francisco’s minor-league hitting instructor.

“I’m more proud of him getting to the major leagues than (Buster) Posey or (Brandon) Belt,” Mariano said. “He got the most out of his abilities. He’s a grinder. He’s a winner. He knows how to play the game.”

Ryan Lollis, 28, flew in from the Flying Squirrels in Richmond to play some right field for the Cats in Oklahoma City. He made a diving catch there Friday night and almost did it again here Saturday night.

“He’s a gamer,” Mariano said. “I had him in Fresno in 2012, and he came up from San Jose and hit .300 for me. He makes great plays. He gets great reads. He gives you good at-bats.”

Trevor Brown has been around all season, but he has kind of been forgotten in the conga line of catchers stretching from Sacramento to San Francisco that includes Posey, Hector Sanchez and Andrew Susac.

Brown, 23, got one of his biggest hits of the year Saturday night when he a smacked a three-run double over Tacoma center fielder James Jones’ head. The crowd’s reaction made Raley sound like a major-league ballpark.

If Brown had a bigger moment, it came May 15 when he homered on a 95-mph fastball delivered in Las Vegas by Steven Matz, described by Mariano as “one of the higher prospects in this league.”

“This kid has a lot of ability,” Mariano said of Brown. “You project him three or four years from now, and we’re going to have a pretty good catcher.”

For now, Brown is doing well enough in Sacramento, and they didn’t even have to do a last-second sewing job on his shirt.

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