Minor adjustments

Placer grad Renfree is making the most of his return to the West
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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Matt Renfree didn’t expect to be drafted last June. He even had a summer of classes lined up to finish off his communications degree at the University of Nevada. The Placer High graduate put early struggles behind him during his senior season with the Wolf Pack and was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 24th round of the 2007 amateur draft, thanks to a strong second-half performance and impressive numbers in the Western Athletic Conference tournament. This summer, Renfree has settled into a relief pitching role with the Everett AquaSox, the Mariners’ short-season Single-A affiliate. “I absolutely love it up here,” the 6-foot-8, 230-pounder said. “I couldn’t ask for a better atmosphere, better ballpark, better teammates. I’m having a real fun time.” The right-hander leads the staff with a 2.54 ERA. He’s recorded 32 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings and has surrendered only one home run. “He’s got a really good fastball,” said Travis Howell, the AquaSox catcher who also played summer rookie ball with Renfree in the Arizona League. “Fastball command has been pretty crucial for him so far. His overall ability to get ahead in counts gives him a chance to use his secondary pitch, which is his slider. He tends to strike out people with it a lot.” His struggles at Nevada are a distant memory for Renfree, a three-year letterman in baseball and basketball at Placer. “The first part of my senior season I just wasn’t being the pitcher I knew I could be,” he said. “I wasn’t throwing the ball well. When my confidence started going up I really started getting into a groove and becoming the pitcher my coaches thought I could be and I knew I could be.” Renfree was named first team all-conference and was the lone relief pitcher named to the 2007 WAC all-tournament team. “That’s what got me the looks,” he said. Renfree posted impressive numbers last summer in the Arizona League and helped his team win the rookie ball championship. He expected to attend spring training this year, but was asked not to report to camp until June 1. He was told he’d be sent to the Mariners’ rookie affiliate in Pulaski, Va., but has made the most of the last-minute redirect to Everett. “It’s better because it’s a little closer to home,” Renfree said. Close enough to allow his parents, Sam and Sue, to watch a five-game homestand against the Spokane Indians last weekend and follow their son south to Eugene, Ore., for this week’s three-game set with the Emeralds. “It’s their first time seeing me play professionally,” said Renfree, who lives with his family in Auburn during the offseason. “It’s a treat for them.” With school “on the backburner,” as Renfree put it, he’s likely working toward a call-up to the Single-A Appleton, Wisc. Timber Rattlers or high-level Single-A High Desert Mavericks in Adelanto, northeast of Los Angeles. “I’d love to move up,” Renfree said. “That’s my job; to put up numbers and put pressure on the guys in charge of moving guys around. If that doesn’t happen right away, I’ll make the best of any situation they put me in. My first priority is to keep putting up numbers.”