A suprise out of this seasons Tigers spring training camp was pitcher Brayan Villarreal. The hard throwing right-hander was thrilled yesterday to find he made Detroits 25-man roster. After hearing the good news, the 23 year old from Venezuela immediately called his parents.
“This is the moment I’ve been waiting for for a long time,” Villarreal stated. “It feels really, really good. I can’t say how good I feel. My mom and dad were just so happy. They said ‘You deserve it; you worked hard. I am proud’.”
Villarreal pitched in five games for the Tigers this spring, earning one save, striking out four, and had a 5.06 ERA. I was able to see him pitch against the Peoria Chiefs back in 2009 while he was with the Whitecaps. In that outing he pitched five scoreless innings and had a measely 1.06 ERA at the time.
Also making the cut on Saturday are outfielders Casper Wells and Brennan Boesch. Niether player made last years team out of spring training, but did well when they were called up.
“This is tremendous,” Wells said. “It’s a stepping stone to what I hope to accomplish. And it’s really nice to break camp with the team. I grew up following the Yankees, and went to games at old Yankee Stadium. This will be my first time at the new Yankee Stadium, and I can’t wait.”
In 36 games last season, Wells batted .323 and manager Jim Leyland stated he had the second best outfield glove on the team behind Austin Jackson. Boesch batted .256 last season, and led all American League rookies with 14 home runs and 67 RBI’s.
Boesch stated, “It’s the first time breaking camp with the team and that’s cool. It’s and honor and everything. But I fully expected to be here. I did a few things last year, but I also know competition is good for the organization, and I never have a problem with competing.”
These players join former Whitecaps Alex Avila, Brandon Inge, Joel Zumaya, Ramon Santiago, Don Kelly, Ryan Raburn, and Will Rhymes (who won out the second base job) on Detroit’s Opening Day roster. That’s a pretty impressive list of former ‘Caps. Good luck to all these guys, as there success should be wins for the Tigers.
Photo property of M.I.B
Another segment from MiLB.com‘s Ten Questions asked by Robert Emrich to Detroit Tigers prospect and former West Michigan Whitecap Casey Crosby. Crosby is still high on the Tigers prospect list, despite battling injuries including Tommy John surgery in 2007 (the year he was drafted) and suffering from elbow and forearm discomfort in 2010. He had a solid season for West Michigan in 2009, however, being a mid-season and post-season All-Star, and going 10-4 with a 2.41 ERA.
The Tigers and Crosby are hoping that he’s finally healthy and can climb the latter to the Tigers roster in a few years. I had him slated to start the season with Double-A Erie, but he’s been pitching lights-out in Triple-A games this spring, so there’s a chance of him being assigned to Toledo.
MiLB.com: How frustrating was it to not be able to follow up your excellent 2009 campaign in 2010?
Casey Crosby: It was very disappointing. It was hard for me because, at that point, I knew what I could do, and being unable to perform — that was just a huge disappointment. I just wanted to show everyone that I could perform at the next level.
MiLB.com: What’s the most frustrating part of missing most of 2010?
Crosby: Just the fact that I’m not able to show what I can do, not only other people but myself. You see how good you are, but you also see you’re unable to do it all the time. Last year was just very frustrating and it took its toll on me mentally. Taking this offseason and getting my confidence back heading into Spring Training was a big thing, because I know what I can do.
MiLB.com: What are your goals for 2011?
Crosby: Obviously they are to pitch the whole season and make every start that I’m supposed to. Also I want to continue improving my mental game and my overall performance on the mound. The main thing is mentally I want to be able to handle anything that comes to me in 2011.
MiLB.com: Do you fear you’re going to get a reputation as a pitcher who is always hurt?
Crosby: That’s something you don’t want to think about. You don’t want to think about injuries when you’re playing. When it comes to reputation and being hurt, you just want to take care of yourself and do what you have to do. If people perceive me as a guy that does get hurt that’s fine, but I believe my future will not show that, and I have to believe that.
MiLB.com: What is your favorite off-day activity?
Crosby: If I have an off day, you’ll probably see me at the movies. The last movie I saw was Hall Pass and I thought it was really funny, absolutely hilarious. My favorite movie is probably Dumb and Dumber. I’m a fan of comedies and Jim Carrey. Dumb and Dumber — the first time I saw it I never laughed so hard in my life.
MiLB.com: Since you grew up a Cubs fan, were you grateful to be drafted by a non-rival team? Is getting to play close to home a big deal for you?
Crosby: I really didn’t care. If I got drafted by the Cardinals, I don’t care — it’s still an amazing feeling. Hopefully in the future, I’ll get a good crack at the White Sox. Definitely, I was in West Michigan in 2009, and it’s only about three-and-a-half hours away. My family came and saw me quite a bit, especially my grandma and dad. My grandma is 83, 84 years old, but she still traveled three to four hours to see her grandson play. That’s a pretty cool feeling.
MiLB.com: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Crosby: The best advice I’ve received is to phase out all the outside distractions and things you can’t control. Just trust your ability and everything will take care of itself. Don’t think ‘If I throw this, what will happen?’ And if you don’t succeed, don’t regret what you did. I just remember someone telling me that and I just stuck with it.
MiLB.com: If you hadn’t been a baseball player, what do you think you would have ended up doing?
Crosby: Something in business, like business financing. I like dealing with numbers and handling banking stuff. I’d probably be going to school for business.
MiLB.com: What do you think your best pitch is, and what pitch do you think needs the most work?
Crosby: It’s hard to go against a fastball, but my curveball is something that I can finally locate and it’s something that is my out pitch. It’s close, but I’m still going to go with my fastball. It’s nice knowing that I have that in my repertoire. I feel like my changeup is improving; I feel like I’m throwing that for strikes more. That’s something I’m going to use a lot this year. My four-seam fastball doesn’t do a lot of dancing or moving; it’s pretty much straight. I want to be able to throw my two-seam fastball and get an easy groundball out. My two-seamer isn’t there yet, but it’s something I am looking to improve on.
MiLB.com: You were 10-4, had an ERA of 2.41 and one of the best strikeout rates in the Minors in 2009. What stat from that season were you most proud of?
Crosby: I would have to say, if I didn’t have that blister the last three weeks of the year, I’d have to say my innings pitched. Actually, the thing I’m most proud of were my second-half numbers. They were a lot better than my first half, my ERA and strikeouts per nine innings were so much better. I was coming back from Tommy John surgery, and the fact that I was improving more and more was huge to me.
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
The last several months have been the hardest off-season for the kids and I yet. I wish it was simply because there was no baseball, but unfortunately, it has nothing to do with our favorite sport. Without going into to much detail, I believe a family is like a team, and when one team member is selfish the rest suffer. If there’s one thing this experience has shown me, it’s how strong and special my kids are. I know I’m the dad and it’s my job to take care of them and be there for them, but the fact is they’ve been there and taken care of me more than I ever imagined. I truelly believe that if it wasn’t for them, I’d be in some padded cell right now being spoon fed pudding three times a day. I can honestly say that my kids are my best friends, and I really believe that we’ll be ok…as long as we stick together. We didn’t just hang our heads, though, we kept busy and shared a lot of laughs together this winter. Here’s a few pics from how we survived our toughest off-season…Opening day is on the horizon, and I’m determined to make this summer one of the best they’ve ever had. They deserve it.
Lots of Hockey
Photos property of M.I.B
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all, even if you only have a wee bit o’ Irish blood in ye. ‘Tis a good day to drink and be too drunk to go to work the next day. However you celebrate, I wish fun and safety to all. Whether you’re just sitting at home dreaming about baseball, or at the local pub enjoying a refreshing lager. Here’s one of my favorite Irish drinking toasts to all my friends in the Blogosphere:
Here’s to a long life and a merry one. A quick death and an easy one. A pretty girl and an honest one. A cold beer–and another one!
Even if you’re as Irish as I, if you’re a baseball fan you must be happy that there’s only a few more weeks until this…
Photos courtesy of Savannah Sand Gnats and West Michigan Whitecaps
Many alumni of the famed West Michigan Whitecaps are now in spring training with their current team. Some have spots all but wrapped up with their MLB team, other are fighting for a spot, and some are still on the rise through the system. It’s fun to watch the games and see guys in action that I’ve watched or maybe have met at Fifth Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids. Here’s some pics of some the former ‘Caps in training. We wish them all the best no matter where they might be.
Alex Avila-C (Tigers)
Duane Below-P (Tigers)
Brennan Boesch-OF (Tigers)
Luke French-P (Mariners)
Brandon Inge-3B (Tigers)
Matt Joyce-OF (Rays)
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
One of the fun things about gearing up for our 2011 travels, is wondering what players we’ll be able to watch who might make it to the big leagues. It takes some players longer to make than others, but some guys just seem to stand out. Last season while in Cedar Rapids, we were lucky enough to watch Mike Trout play, who has been named the top prospect in baseball. His lead-off homer was impressive, but what impressed me more was his attitude. He was nice enough to sign a program for my son who was an Angels fan at the time (he bounces back between the Angels and Cubs..don’t ask). We sat right behind the on deck circle, and our conversation with Mike started when my dad asked him why he had his name and number on his shoes, while his teammates didn’t. He kindly explained that he was their top draft pick and this was part of his deal. He had his own little cheering section which he rewarded with a game ball. It’s nice to see players at this level without the big egos and attitudes. Trout genually seemed gratefull for his fans and to be playing. The next day in DeMoines we saw Hall of Famers Ryne Sandburg again. You really can’t go wrong meeting these guys. We also met some of the Whitecaps players later in the summer, and being a Tigers fan it’s fun to watch these guys progress though the system. So next time you’re travelling by a Minor League ballpark, stop in for a game. Ya just never know who you might see play.
Photos property of M.I.B.