EVERETT — The rains subsided earlier in the week and the Everett AquaSox opened their 2018 season with a 5-2 loss to the Hillsboro Hops before 4,003 fans Friday at Everett Memorial Stadium.
The game was the first Northwest League contest on the new artificial turf that was installed during the offseason and dedicated prior to the game. Everett became the third NWL ballpark to install turf as it joined Hillsboro and Eugene.
“I think it is convenient and the maintenance (is easier),” Everett manager Jose Moreno said, as the rain came down in sheets Wednesday, forcing the cancellation of the team’s scheduled exhibition game against the Everett Merchants. “It rains a little bit in Everett and now also the field has a lot of use for different (teams). I think it’s huge.”
The AquaSox held a workout Thursday as they continued to grow acquainted with each other in preparation for the 76-game short-season schedule.
Max Roberts got the start on the mound Friday as the 6-foot-6 left-hander made his Everett debut. The Seattle Mariners drafted Roberts in the seventh round in 2017 and he spent last season with the Mariners’ rookie team in Peoria, Arizona. Sixteen of the 34 players on Everett’s Opening Night roster were taken in last week’s draft.
“We have a really good group,” Moreno said. “They have a pretty good idea about baseball coming from college, most of them, and that’s going to be a big help for us.”
Friday’s lineup featured three players who were in Everett last season including leadoff hitter and center fielder Jansiel Rivera, first baseman Onil Pena and right fielder Ronald Rosario.
Moreno said the remainder of the first-year players will get chances in the lineup as the season gets underway.
“We have to give them an opportunity to see what they have and see what’s going on,” Moreno said. “This is their first step of professional baseball and there is a reason they got drafted. We have to see what they can do.”
Absent from Friday’s lineup was outfielder Josh Stowers, whom the Mariners chose in the second round at 54th overall out of Louisville. Stowers is dealing with a hamstring injury and Moreno offered no timetable for his return. Stowers did take batting practice prior to the game and is able to participate in some drills, but is not yet cleared for game action.
The AquaSox are also expected to add first-round pick Logan Gilbert, a right-handed starting pitcher, to the roster after his signing is officially announced by Seattle.
For now the starting rotation begins with Roberts, who will be followed by Carlos Hernandez, Orlando Raza and Jheyson Caraballo, and the piggyback tandem of Ivan Fortunato and Ulises Perez.
Moreno and the coaching will eventually settle on an everyday lineup, but that is weeks off.
“They are new and at some point at this level it’s all about development,” Moreno said. “At some point we have to have an everyday lineup, but that’s not right now. Maybe by the second half of the season.”
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