April 2012

The Unconditional Release of Brandon Inge

Well, I’ve had a few days to mull this over…after the inevitable happened to (former) Tigers‘ third baseman and mainstay, Brandon Inge. I really don’t think any other player has had this love/hate relationship with fans as he does. Detroit faithful either love him, or call for his head on a platter. Very few seem to be in between. From a business standpoint, the Tigers organization had to do this, and with the majority of the fans leaning toward the ‘hate’ side, it was the right time. I give the Tigers credit, though, as they really gave him every chance this season to play and be effective. After going 2-20 (.100), it was apparent that he just wasn’t going to be the hitter he was during is All-Star year in 2009. In fact, he hasn’t done much since then. I also think that the Tigers are giving him a chance by releasing him. Giving him a chance to maybe catch lighting in a bottle somewhere else, and if that doesn’t happen, then he’ll be welcomed back into the organization in some capacity. I wrote a post back in February on why he’d make a fine Minor League coach, and would probably be in Toledo or West Michigan do to their proximity to Detroit, where Inge and his family live year round. That can be found here: http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com/2012/02/12/the-future-of-brandon-inge/

Now, it looks like he’ll get his chance as a member other of the Oakland Athletics, who reportedly signed him yesterday. He’ll be patrolling third base as usual, ironically replacing former Tiger and Whitecap Scott Sizemore, who is out for the season with a torn knee ligament. If things don’t work out for him playing ‘moneyball’ on Oakland, I’m still believe that Tigers’ owner Mike Illitch will find a place for him in the organization somewhere. He’s a great owner, who is very loyal to players loyal to his teams. And Inge is the longest tenured Tiger since Alan Trammel and Lou Whitaker

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Life in the Minors…

Such is the life of the Minor League baseball manager. Sometimes you just gotta work with the players the big team gives you… Peanuts comics are still the best.

Peanuts comic courtesy of the great Charles M. Schulz

Snakebitten at home

After being swept by the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, it seems the West Michigan Whitecaps could be snakebitten at Fifth Third Ballpark. The ‘Caps seemed to be on a roll, after sweeping the Lake County Captains on the road in Eastlake, Ohio. The T-Rats didn’t return the favor, though, beating the ‘Caps in three straight games. It seemed that West Michigan had a great chance to steal a victory on Saturday afternoon, but couldn’t find the winning run and lost 3-2 in twelve innings. Eugenio Suarez had a good game at the plate, though, going 3-5 with a double and RBI. On another good note, ‘Caps relief pitcher Nick Avila pitched over four scoreless innings to keep his team in the game. The winning pitcher for Wisconsin was Tommy Toledo, who had one of the best baseball names I’ve ever heard. The Tigers need to trade for this guy and put him on the Mud Hens roster immediately. The 7-9 Whitecaps now must take on the Beloit Snappers in a three game set starting this afternoon, and hope they can give their fans something to cheer about with a victory or two, or three.

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Rookie bat heating up for Whitecaps

Brandon Loy gets a hit during his streak last week against the Bowling Green Hot Rods.

As for the readers who’ve read some of my other posts, I’ve stated that I’m a former second baseman when I played the wonderful game of baseball. As such, I really follow that position when I watch live games. As a fan of the West Michigan Whitecaps, I also follow that position, and the personnel assigned there, with great interest. From Will Rhymes, Scott Sizemore, Justin Henry, to Brandon Douglas, I’ve done my best to keep track of them all as they make their way through the system, even after a trade or two. This season, second base has mostly been occupied by first year player Brandon Loy. Loy has played a little short-stop as well, but defense wasn’t much of an issue with him early on, as much as his hitting. Getting off to a rough start in professional baseball, he went 0-10 with four strike-outs to start the season. With some hard work, Loy has been hitting well recently, though, and is on a 13-game hitting streak. He has six multi-hit games, is now batting .390, and has four steals.

“For me it was just a matter of getting started and getting accustomed to this atmosphere,” Loy told MLive.com. “When you strike out a few times, you tend to start swinging at bad pitches. So I just told myself to relax and I’m just seeing the ball much better now.”

He’s also getting help from outfielder Steven Moya, who’s on a 12-game hitting streak of his own, and now leading all ‘A’ ball players with a .436 batting average. Batting in front of Moya is giving Loy some decent pitches to hit.

“That helps out a lot because I’m seeing a few extra fastballs because he’s (Moya) hitting the ball so well,” Loy stated.

Brandon was a fifth round draft pick of the Tigers last June. It will be fun to watch him play this season, and move up through the Tigers system. Detroit doesn’t really have a number one at that position, so maybe in a few years he can fill that role.

Photo property of M.I.B.

Whitecaps hand Lansing first loss

The Lansing Lugnuts are having a great season. No doubt about it, with a current record of 9-1. Their only blemish, however, came at the bats of the West Michigan Whitecaps on Friday night. The hero of the come-from-behind victory, was Danry Vasquez, who went 3-4 with the winning two run homer in the eighth inning. The 18-year-old Vaszuez is also ranked 18th on the Detroit Tigers prospect list by Baseball America. ‘Caps closer Dan Bennett made it interesting, but held on for the save, while relief pitcher Jade Todd earned the win. Also pitching in offensively, was Steven Moya, who was 2-2 on the night with a home run of his own. Eugenio Suarez also went yard to help West Michigan’s 5-4 victory. The team was unable to bottle that late game lighting, however, as they fell to the Lugnuts on Saturday by the same score of 5-4 in 12 innings. Sunday’s game would be another close one, and it was made a little more exciting with a home town boy on the mound for….Lansing. Jesse Hernandez played for Grand Rapids Community College and Central Michigan University before being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Lugnuts slugged their way to another 5-4 win, but Hernandez wasn’t involved in the decision. He did seem to appreciate the home town support, though, despite pitching for the visitors.

“It was amazing, and I can’t put it into words how it felt,” Hernandez told the Grand Rapids Press. “It is nice knowing that you have so many people behind you supporting you and I’m just very appreciative of those people. It was great having them their.”

The Whitecaps took a 3-1 lead, but were unable to hold it. They had the scoring chances, but were unable to come up with the big hits to drive home runs. Seven of these first ten game for the Whitecaps have been decided by just one run. It was enough to frustrate manager Ernie Young a bit.

“I look at it as not taking advantage of all the opportunities we had,” Young also told the Press. “We’re not going to take advantage of  all of them, but however, when we have an opportunity to get a pitcher out of a game, we have to find a way to do it. I hope that we will grow from this-losing by one run these three games-and get better. Hopefully we can find a way to pull for each other, to get a big hit or big stolen base, or take and extra base, something.”

The 4-6 Whitecaps now travel to Eastlake, Ohio to take on the Lake County Captains for three games before returning home to face the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Grand Rapids native Jesse Hernandez on the mound for the Lugnuts

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Super fun day kicks off 2012 season

Not too many fans can have more fun at the ballpark than we did on Wednesday. The sun was shining, and we were more than ready to soak up some baseball. The kids got to spend the day with their Papa, too, as us taking him to the game was park of his birthday present. Not a huge crowd for a noon game on a weekday, so we had plenty of space for us to walk around, watch the warm-ups,  and the kids had to play on the park before the game, too.

Dean Green and Colin Kaline

The new manuel scoreboard and high tech video board bring a lot of character to Fifth Third Ballpark

The highlight of the afternoon, especially for Brian, was the Crash Dash. Each game one lucky kid gets to race the Whitecaps’ mascot Crash around the bases. Lucky for Brian, his number came up and he didn’t fail. We got to hang out down by the West Michigan dugout, then got on the field for the race. Brian darted around the bases like a pro, and left Crash in the dust! He looked great on the big screen, too. Thanks to Lily, because she took some great pics while I was on the field with Brian. I was able to snap a few with my phone, also. I think Brian was pretty happy with himself after his performance, and we were all pretty happy for him, too!

Rounding second!!!


Brian looks so cool up on the new video board! At one point the whole family was up there!

Trevor was busy during the game also, as he caught a stuffed egg (yes, like a stuffed animal, but it was an egg) to give to his sister. He was also given a game ball by Jason Krizan that he is very proud of. Lily, Brian, and I snuck over to the seats that were taken from Tiger Stadium, and sat there for a little bit. Those seats are usual always empty, because they cost twice as much as the others.

The Eyeball Race!

In the game itself, the Bowling Green Hot Rods hit the ‘Caps pitchers pretty hard, nailing 18 hits for the 9-4 victory. Krizan had a good day at the plate for West Michigan, though, he hit a sac fly in the fourth innings for the Whitecaps first run, then walked in a run for an RBI seventh. He had a solo home run in the ninth inning to, but the team was unable to score any more runs. Dean Green extended his six game hitting streak with a bunt single in the fourth inning. He’s now batting .423 with two home runs. On the mound, Josue Carreno took the loss, allowing three runs on six hits.

In all, it was a great day at Fifth Third Ballpark to kick off the 2012 season. We would’ve liked a Whitecaps victory, but had a great time regardless. With the sun shining, a cold beer, the little guy running the bases, Lily’s stuffed toy, and Trevor’s game ball, we all went home happy. We ended the day at Chuck E. Cheese’s, too, just to make it even more fun for the kids!!!

Relief pitcher Nick Avila

Photos property of M.I.B.

Opening Day preperations

Opening Day of the 2012 baseball season is finally here in West Michigan. A lot more goes into this event, and every other game for that matter, than the coaches strategies and the players batting practice. The grounds crew, vendors, and maintenance workers are tirelessly getting Fifth Third  Ballpark ready for the thousands of fans. This Miller Lite‘s for you….for all the workers who make it possible for us fans to enjoy the ballpark experience. We can’t make it tonight, but the kids and I will be there on Wednesday! The Whitecaps are 1-2 on the young season, beating Dayton Saturday night in 11 innings.

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Whitecaps stumble in season opener

 There was some optimism for this 2012 West Michigan team. And, in reality, there still is. With a solid number of prospects on the roster, as well as some familiar names for Tigers fans, this years rendition of the Whitecaps looks to have a winning look to it. Even infielder Colin Kaline feels confident about his team this season.

“I don’t see many weaknesses on this team,” Kaline told Steve Kaminski of MLive.com. “These are great guys, great team guys and great ball players. I think the team has some pretty high expectations for moving on this summer. We have a lot of guys who have been around a bit, with a mixture of young talent. It’s going to be really special to be a part of this team this summer.”

 The Whitecaps hit a speed bump on Opening Day, however, in the form of Dayton Dragons pitcher Justice French, who was named the Cincinnati RedsMinor League Pitcher of the Year last season. French struck out eight hitters and only allowed two of the Whitecaps four hits to earn the 3-0 victory. In all, the ‘Caps struck out eleven times and were 0-5 with runners in scoring position. Aaron Westlake, Dan Green, Eugenio Suarez and Steven Moya collected hits for West Michigan, while Kaline went 0-3. Starting pitcher Josue Carreno took the loss for the ‘Caps, who are now 11-8 all time on opening day.

First baseman Aaron Westlake had one of the Whitecaps four hits on Opening Day.

Photos courtesy of Dayton Daily News

Whitecaps Update: All in the Family

Second baseman Colin Kaline, grandson of Tigers legend Al Kaline

All in the family is a good way to describe a small percentage of the West Michigan Whitecaps roster this season. Four of the new Whitecaps players are related to a former or current Detroit Tiger! First is catcher Patrick Leyland, who is the son of Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland. Patrick was drafted in the eighth round of the 2010 draft, and played at short-season Connecticut last year. Manning the second base position in West Michigan will be Colin Kaline, who is the grandson of HOFer Al Kaline. Big shoes to fill for Colin, as Al is one of the greatest Tigers ever, winning the World Series in 1968 and being a 15 time All-Star. Colin also played for the Connecticut Tigers last season. Also patrolling the infield will be Marcus Lemon, son of former Tiger Chet Lemon. Chet was a member of the 1984 World Series Champions during his nine-year stint in Detroit. Marcus was actually drafted by the Texas Rangers, but picked up by Detroit as a Minor League free agent in February. Pitching out of the ‘Cap bullpen this season will be Nick Avila. Nick is the cousin of current Tigers’ catcher Alex Avila, and the nephew of Detroit’s Vice President/Assistant General Manager Al Avila. Like I said, all in the family…

Marcus Lemon, son of former 1984 World Champion Tiger Chet Lemon

Joining the above mentioned on the 2012 ‘Caps roster, are seven of the Tigers ten 2011 draft picks. These are some decent prospects consisting of first baseman Aaron Westlake, shortstop Brandon Loy, and third baseman Jason King. The Whitecaps have some quality players returning from last season, too, who made a late season run and barely missed out on the playoffs. Outfielder Steven Moya and lefty pitcher Kyle Ryan are two of those returning players, and give the Whitecaps a more experienced ballclub this season. While the 2011 Opening Day roster consisted of six teenagers and twelve players under 20, this year club has just one teenager and five 20-yr-olds. The lone youngster is Danry Vasquez, one of the top 30 Detroit prospect despite having only one professional season under his belt.

The Whitecaps have been a pretty busy crew, though, despite only being in town a few days. Yesterday they held and open practice for the public, and took time to meet the fans and sign autographs. Today, a handful of players like Westlake, Loy, and Moya, participated in the Tigers vs. Mud Hens game in Toledo. They open the season tomarrow in Dayton, Ohio, against the Dragons. It was a nice surprise to see these guys in the lineup on TV, and a chance to see them in action before our game next week. I’m hoping that this is an exciting year in West Michigan!

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

April in the ‘D’

Well, it’s now April first, and that can mean different things to different people. If you’re a prankster, than April Fools Day is the day for you, to basically get away with just about any jesting and not get into too much trouble for it. If you’re my dad, then it’s your birthday, so the kids and I called him to wish him a happy one (between periods of the hockey game, of course). If you’re a wrestling fan, then today was WreslteMania, and one of my friends from work even took the night off to watch it with his dad. Nothing wrong with that. If you’re a fan of Detroit sports, though, the calender turn means something a bit more…April in the ‘D’. A term dubbed by Fox Sports Detroit, this is simply the time of year when Detroit sports fans can unite, as it means Stanley Cup playoffs for the Red Wings and the beginning of the MLB season for the Tigers. I’m honestly not sure how the Pistons are doing, but the NBA probably has playoffs coming up, too. This should be a great year for the Tigers, and I’m anticipating a lot of fun baseball for the kids and I. There are three reasons why being a Tigers fan puts us a step ahead of other baseball fans, and, no, those reasons are not Verlander, Cabrera, and Fielder. The reasons are Lauren, Allison, and now..Megan. Thank you Fox Sports for giving us the best of the best to represent Detroit, and all of Michigan!

You can follow these girls on Twitter @FSDetroit_Girls

Photos courtesy of Fox Sports Net

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