Federal Way High School graduate Travis Ishikawa is making a push to be on the Pittsburgh Pirates' opening-day roster, which is a little bit of a surprise for the 30-year-old.
Ishikawa, a left-handed first baseman, spent most of 2013 in the minor leagues, though he played six games for the Baltimore Orioles and one game for the New York Yankees. But Ishikawa is having an impressive spring training for the Pirates. In 25 plate appearances, he is hitting .320 with three home runs and six RBIs.
The journeyman signed a minor-league contract on Dec. 13 with an invitation to the Pirates' major-league spring training. It was thought that Ishikawa would at least start the season at Class AAA Indianapolis. But it's very possible that Ishikawa will be in the Pirates’ starting lineup on Major League Baseball's opening day Monday against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. His stellar spring training makes him a likely candidate platoon with right-handed Gabby Sanchez at first base.
The Pirates are Ishikawa's fourth franchise in the last year and sixth during his career. After signing a minor-league deal with the Orioles on Dec. 19, 2012, Ishikawa spent most of spring training with the team but was assigned to the Class AAA Norfolk Tides of the International League.
In 49 games (177 at bats) with Norfolk, he batted .316 with 56 hits, seven home runs and 31 RBIs. Ishikawa was called up to the Orioles in June and appeared in six games, getting two hits in 17 at bats with an RBI. The Orioles designated him for assignment on June 29.
The New York Yankees claimed Ishikawa on July 7 and he appeared in one game for the Yankees, starting at first base and going 0 for 2 with two strikeouts in a 5–1 loss to the Kansas City Royals. New York designated Ishikawa for assignment when Derek Jeter returned from the 60-day disabled list.
Ishikawa then signed with the Chicago White Sox and played 34 games at Class AAA Charlotte, where he hit .250 with two home runs and 23 RBIs.
Ishikawa had a solid year for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012. He served mostly as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement at first base for the Brewers after spending nine seasons with the San Francisco Giants' organization. Ishikawa hit .257 with four home runs, 30 RBIs and 19 runs in 152 at bats for the Brewers.
Ishikawa was a San Francisco draft pick out of Federal Way in 2002 and played 281 games for the team since 2006. He has a lifetime batting average of .264 with 19 home runs, 110 RBIs, 40 doubles in 740 at-bats for San Francisco and Milwaukee.
Ishikawa spent a bulk of the 2009 season as the Giants' everyday first baseman after an impressive spring training. During that season, Ishikawa hit .261 with nine home runs and 39 RBIs in 120 regular season games.