July 2012

Hot Rods roll over Whitecaps

Bowling Green, KY: The Bowling Green Hot Rods came out strong in the second half of the season, and they haven’t taken their foot off the gas yet. The showed no mercy toward the visiting West Michigan Whitecaps, handing them their first sweep since April. In game one, the ‘Caps were down 4-0 early but did attempt a come back. Lance Durham and Jason Krizan had back to back RBI’s to cut the lead to 4-2, but neither team could put a runner across the plate the rest of the game. Eugenio Suarez, Jeff McVaney, Jason King, and Krizan each had two hits in the game. On the mound, Jeff Ferrell took the loss in five innings pitched.

The Whitecaps also attempted a come back win in game two of the series in a 5-4 loss. They left 12 runners on base and were 2-12 with runners in scoring position. West Michigan got on the board first, after a Chad Wright double, and Chad Wright picking up an RBI sac fly. Durham would hit his fourth homer of the season to cut the lead to 5-3, while King and Patrick Leyland hit back to back doubles to make it 5-4. They would load the bases in the ninth, but were unable to score the winning run. Will Palacios took the loss on the hill while pitching five innings.

The Whitecaps would load the bases in the ninth inning for the second night in a row, but were still unable to score the tying runs in a 3-1 loss to BG. Tommy Collier pitched three innings for the ‘Caps, while Brennan Smith threw three perfect innings. Aaron Westlake went 2-4 with an RBI single in the game. The Whitecaps return to Fifth Third Ballpark on Tuesday to host the Lake County Captains.

Photos courtesy of Pete Rodman/BG Daily News

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The Name Game

Roberto Hernandez made his first start this season in a rehab stint vs. the Whitecaps

Eastlake, OH: The West Michigan Whitecaps had a successful trip to Ohio, taking two of three games from the Lake County Captains. Their only loss of the series was an interesting one, though, as they faced former Major League pitcher Fausto Carmona, er, I mean, Roberto Hernandez. Wait…what? Hernandez is serving a three-week suspention from MLB, and made a rehab start for the Captains in game two of the series with West Michigan. The picher formerly known a Carmona was arrested in January for identity theft in the Dominican Rebublic for assuming the name of a family friend. The Cleveland Indians thought they were signing a 17 yr-old back in 2000, but in reality, Hernandez was 20. Three years later he was pitching for the Captains, going 17-4 with a 2.06 ERA in 2003. Six years later, he had to wait for a new visa to come into the United States. How he was granted a new visa with a fraud conviction, I’ll never know, but money talks I guess, and Major League Baseball slapped him with a whopping three-week suspension. Back on track- he did earn his first professional victory since Sept. 20, 2011 against the ‘Caps, as they were downed 5-4 by Lake County. Hernandez gave up three runs on six hits. West Michigan didn’t show the 31 yr-old much respect out of the gate, though, as they scored two runs in the first inning on an Aaron Westlake home run. Eugelio Suarez singled before him. In the fourth inning, Jason King doubled, and scored on an RBI by Patrick Leyland. In the end, two errors costs the ‘Caps the winning run and the game. Carmona Hernandez is eligible to join the Indians on August 11.

The Whitecaps dominated the first game of the series 8-1. On the hill for the ‘Caps, Chad Smith was successful in his first start in the Midwest League. In three innings he allowed one hit and struck out three. Along with the bullpen, he held the Captains to only four hits on the night. This was only Smith’s fifth pro start after Tommy John surgery last year. West Michigan was led offensively by Jason King, who ended the game going 3-5 with a home run and three RBI’s. The ‘Caps scored six runs in the seventh inning to break the game wide open. King and Brandon Loy each drove in two runs in the inning. Loy was 2-4 in the game with a pair of doubles. Jason Krizan also doubled in a pair of runs in the inning. The Whitecaps received more solid pitching in a 4-0 victory in the last game of the series. Marcelo Carreno threw six shutout innings and only allowed one hit. Loy helped out with his bat, scoring two with a single in the second. Jeff McVaney would drive him home for a 3-0 lead. In the eighth, McVaney tripled and was hit home on a single by King. Leyland and Krizan each singled to load the bases with no outs when the game was called due to lightning.

Photos courtesy of Maribeth Joeright/The News-Herald

One and Done

Brian just finished up his first year of organized baseball, and I think we can call it a success. We had a lot of fun, and I think he learned something about teamwork. He likes to hit live pitching, so trying to convince him to hit off the tee was a challenge at first, but he continued to hit the ball very well all season, so that really helped his confidence. The T-Ball teams were very small this season, which is good so we can focus on the individual kids more and they don’t do a lot of standing around during practice or games. It’s so important to keep them moving and busy, so they don’t lose interest. Brian’s teammates were great, and I’m sure they had a lot of fun as well. I was honored to be their first coach in organized baseball and will miss them, too. Next season can’t come soon enough, but I can focus on Trevor and Lily as they finish up their last week of baseball/softball. Again, the end is bitter-sweet, and I am so proud of him!

Brian on the front page of our local newspaper, the Sault Evening News

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

‘Caps alums dealt to Miami brings Infante home

Brantly with the Whitecaps, sporting the Autism Awareness jersey for a very good cause. There is nothing good about the horrid jerseys on Miami. Nothing…

Sometimes being a top prospect is a good thing, and sometimes it simply makes you a target. Just one day after earning his first Major League victory, Jacob Turner is packing his bags and heading south. Instead of wearing the classic English ‘D’ of the Detroit Tigers, Turner will now have to don the gaudy Miami Marlins unis and put up with crack-pot manager Ozzie Guillen. Welcome to the real world, kid. Also going to the Miami organization are catching prospect Rob Brantly, who just participated in the All-Star Futures Game, and pitcher Brian Flynn. In the deal, the Tigers acquire starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and former Tiger and West Michigan Whitecaps infielder Omar Infante. Sanchez gives the Tigers that extra man in the rotation, and Infante will fill the second base role that has never been successfully filled since the departure of Placido Palanco. In all, Sanchez is the only player in this deal who did not play for the Whitecaps at some point. Turner pitched for West Michigan in 2010, going 2-3 with a 3.67 ERA in ten starts. Brantly and Flynn both suited up for the ‘Caps last season, with Brantly hitting .303 in 75 games. Flynn, a seventh-round draft pick in 2011, started 13 games with a 7-2 record and 3.46 ERA. Infante played in West Michigan as an 18 yr-old way back in 2000, playing in only 12 games and hitting .229. He was traded to the Cubs in 2007, only to be traded to Atlanta shortly after. In 2010 he hit .321 for the Braves, with eight home-runs and 47 RBI’s. Infante was traded to the Marlins in 2010, and is having a solid year batting .287 with eight home-runs and 33 RBI’s. I think the player the Tigers will miss most out of this deal, actually, is Brantly. I like Alex Avila behind the plate, but he’s struggled this season at the plate, and still has to prove that last years’ All-Star performance wasn’t a fluke. However, if the deal does help Detroit get into the post-season and excel there, then I’m all for it. All the best to Turner, Flynn, and Brantly, though!

Photo property of  Minoring In Baseball

Whitecaps win with walk-off!!!

Jason Krizan celebrates with with teammates Ramon Labron and Brandon Loy after driving in the winning run!

Going 20 innings without scoring a run, the West Michigan Whitecaps were due. Facing the best team in the West Division the Burlington Bees, the ‘Caps won last nights’ game 3-2 with a walk-off bloop single by outfielder Jason Krizan in the bottom of the ninth. Manager Ernie Young had the ‘Caps playing ‘small ball’ that inning, with Eugenio Suarez getting hit by a pitch (and would score the winning run), a bunt by clean-up hitter Aaron Westlake, and a sacrifice by Jeff McVaney.

“We didn’t know much (about Bees pitcher Macias) other than he threw a two seamer,” Krizan told MLive.com. “So, it was late in the game, I had a feeling he was going to throw it away the entire at, and the first pitch was there.”

West Michigan started its comeback in the eighth inning, scoring three runs to tie the game. Pat Leyland and Lance Durham earned the RBI’s. The team was also helped by relief pitcher Ramon Lebron, who pitched three scoreless innings to earn the win. As stated in yesterday’s post, winning these close games is so important, and the Whitecaps are now 16-14 (52-48 overall). This was a great game to finish the current home stand, too. The team has today off to travel to Eastlake, Ohio for a series with the Lake County Captains.

Photos courtesy of Cory Morse/MLive.com

Turner earns first MLB win, helps Tigers sweep ChiSox

Former West Michigan Whitecaps starting pitcher Jacob Turner earned his fist Major League victory last night, in a game that helped Detroit sweep the division rival Chicago White Sox, and putting them 1.5 games ahead in the Central standings. Re-bounding from a rough outing against the Angels last week, Turner pitched well in his 5 1/3 innings of work, giving up 3 runs in the Tigers 6-4 win. He struck-out three batters and never issued a walk. The Tigers have now won five straight and 16 of their last 21 games. Helping out offensively, and also a Whitecaps alum, was Brennan Boesch, who hit a two-run homer in the third inning. This is his second home run in as many games and was 2-3 in the game. Also pitching in was a decent little hitter Miguel Cabrera, who pounded two over the Comerica wall, numbers 299 and 300 respectively. Not bad, maybe we should keep an eye on this guy?

Turner pitched one partial season for the Whitecaps in 2010. He went 2-3 with a 3.67 ERA and 51 strike-outs.

Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps

Suarez helping Whitecaps tread water in MWL

So far in this second half of the Minor League season, the West Michigan Whitecaps are certainly treading water. The good news, is that the Whitecaps are currently in second place in the Midwest League‘s Eastern Division. The bad news, is that they are tied with Great Lakes, Lake County, and South Bend for that spot. Each with an identical 15-14 record. More good news, is that they are only three games out of first place. More bad news, is that there are three teams in first place, all with identical 18-11 records. So, I say that they’re treading water is fairly accurate. Helping the Whitecaps this second half is infielder Eugenio Suarez. On July 19th, Suarez turned his 21st birthday into one he’ll never forget. He went 4-4 with four RBI’s, including a two-run home run, and reached base in all of his six plate appearances. To top that all off, he came through with a walk-off single with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, as the ‘Caps rallied from behind to beat the Peoria Chiefs 9-8.  He lined a 2-2 pitch into left field for the win, and was mobbed by his teammates for his efforts.

“I’m so happy because I dedicated this game to my father,” Suarez told MLive.com. “I told my father I was going to have a good game for my family, and I did. I’m so happy and excited because we never gave up and kept working and fighting for this game.”

He’s also been getting the job done in the infield, too. On the 21st, in a close game with the Burlington Bees, Suarez made 11 assists in the field. One of his assists was a throw to the plate that caught a Burlington player trying to steal home in the seventh inning, and that kept his team in the lead. In the third inning, he assisted on all three outs. The Whitecaps won the game 5-0, but it was very close (1-0) until they opened up the offense in the eighth inning.

“That is the first time in my life that I’ve had 11 assists in a game,” he stated. “I like a game like that, I feel excited when I can help the team win with defense.”

We ‘Caps fans like it, too, Eugenio! The team will have to keep playing tough, and starting winning more of these close games (they lost 1-0 last night…grrrr…) if they plan on playing in the post season. And with the teams so evening matched, every game will certainly count.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Whitecaps’ Alum hurles No-No for Akron

Soto pitching for the Whitecaps in 2010.

Now a member of the Akron Aeros, former West Michigan Whitecaps pitcher Giovanni Soto pitched a no-hitter against the Altoona Curve this week. The Puerto Rico native struck out six batters and walked three. He took advantage of his teams ability to ‘turn two’ to face just one over the minimum number of hitters at 27. He threw 11 groundouts on 64 strikes.

“I thought about [the no-hitter] around the seventh inning,” Soto told MiLB.com. “I knew I had a catcher, Michel Hernandez, with a lot of experience, so I wasn’t shaking him off. I had command of all my pitches. I was using my fastball more than I usually do. I was keeping the ball down.”

So far this season with Akron, his first in Double-A, he’s sporting a record of 6-6 with a 3.73 ERA. As a member of the Whitecaps in 2010, he was also 6-6, with a 2.61 ERA through 16 games. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians in July of that year in a deal that brought Jhonny Peralta to the Detroit Tigers. Soto was drafted in the 21st round of the 2009 Draft by Detroit.

Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps

Castellanos named All-Star Futures Game MVP

Former Whitecaps re-unite, as Rob Brantly high-fives Nick Castellanos after his three-run homer in the All-Star Futures Game Sunday night.

Kauffman Stadium-Kansas City, MO: Nick Castellanos has been the Tigers top positional prospect ever since he was drafted by Detroit in the first round of the 2010 Draft 44th overall. He seems to be doing his best in keeping up with the Motor City’s expectations, as seen last night at the All-Star Futures Game. Castellanos went 3-4 including a three-run homer, three runs scored, and three RBI’s. He was awarded the honor of being named the games’ MVP for his efforts. The 20-yr-old prospect from Florida kicked off a nine-run sixth inning with a single before being hit home by fellow Tiger’s prospect (and former Whitecap) Rob Brantly. Castellanos would bat a second time in the inning for Team USA, this time taking a high fast-ball deep into center field almost 406 feet! The U.S. team defeated the World team in a 17-5 blowout.

“I think I gave a couple of fist pumps rounding second, and I remember saying to myself, ‘That’s huge. That’s awesome.” Castellanos stated to MLB.com. “It was a great at bat. The pitcher pitched me really well. I worked a 3-2 count and he left, I think, a two-seamer that got in. And I was able to get the good part of the bat on it and it got enough to get out. That at-bat’s definitely up there with the greatest at-bats I’ve had in pro ball.” Also, on his bat going to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, he stated:

“The bat’s probably the coolest thing ever. That’s right up there with playing in this game. I don’t even think I’ve taken that in yet, that the bat I used is going to Cooperstown. I went to Cooperstown when I was 12 for a tournament and I was just walking around. The names that are in Cooperstown and that my bat’s going to Cooperstown, saying that out loud is pretty cool. …”

He is currently hitting .307 for the Double-A Erie Seawolves, and was hitting. 405 with the Lakeland Flying Tigers before his promotion. Last season in West Michigan, Nick hit .312 with 36 doubles, seven home-runs, and 76 RBI’s.

Brantly was also a 2010 draftee of the Tigers, and played with Castellanos most of last season with the Whitecaps before being promoted to Lakeland. He was a late injury replacement to the U.S. team, but contributed to the victory both offensively and defensively. He went 1-3 with an RBI after entering the game in the fifth inning. He also gunned down a steal attempt in the fifth inning. So far in this 2012 season, he has split time between Double-A Erie and the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. Combined, he is hitting .300 with 19 doubles, three home runs, and 29 RBI’s. Last season with the ‘Caps, he batted .303, adding 16 doubles, seven home runs, and 44 RBI’s.

Rob Brantly at bat for the Whitecaps last season during Military Night

Getting lost in the World team pitching suffle, is Tigers prospect and former Whitecap Bruce Rondon. The Venezuelan born reliever pitched one inning in the Futures All-Star Game, pitching a scoreless inning in the eighth. He also hit the 102 mph mark on the radar gun…. Rondon was also split time this season, between Class-A Lakeland, where he was named to the Florida State League All-Star team,  and Double-A Erie. He is 1-0 this season, with a 1.38 ERA, 23 saves, and 45 strike-outs. Last season in West Michigan, he went 2-2, with a 2.02 ERA, 19 saves, and 61 K’s.  

Brantly stated to MLB.com about the possibility of facing Rondon in the Future’s Game:

“I think everybody was thinking about that at the beginning of the game. I don’t know if you guys saw the radar gun there, he didn’t throw anything below 101. Guys were coming out of their shoes early. They were looking forward to getting out of the box — single, home run, whatever. He pounded the zone, so kudos to him. I’m proud of him.”

I think it’s pretty cool that they all played together most of last season, and were able to share the experience of this game. Hopefully they’ll all be on the Tigers roster together in a few years. Sorry, no pic of Bruce, though…

Top photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Bottom photos property of  Minoring In Baseball

Our 4th up North

Independence Day Parade

Sault Ste. Marie, MIThe kids and I spent our 4th of July by participating in the Independence Day parade here in town. We were representing the Sault Area Little League division of Little League Baseball. We had a lot of fun waving to the town folk and handing out candy. We were lucky enough to be one of the first floats in the parade, so when we were done, the kids were able to get some candy themselves and see the rest of it. The night ended with some decent fireworks and a fun day as a family. I hope all my fellow bloggers had a fun and safe holiday, also!

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

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