It’s always exciting to see a member of the big club rehabbing in the minors, especially for the home-town fans. The Detroit Tigers second baseman Omar Infante, though, is a player just trying to get better and back to helping his team defend its American League Championship. And, despite the Whitecaps wearing special Ronald McDonald jerseys (to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House for children), he’s all business. Unfortunately the ‘Caps lost their first game with Infante in the lineup, but he was 1-3 with a single, and was hit by a pitch. He acted like his ankle was a little tender, however, rounding first after his base hit. He seems to be confident he’ll work through it, though.
“I have to continue to making my ankle strong”, Infante told MLive.com. “I have to continue trying on my rehab. I will play tomorrow at second base and we’ll see what happens. I have to see a lot of pitches and that’s why I need to play three game, four games. ”
West Michigan ended up losing to the Fort Wayne TinCaps 9-2 that first game, but bounced back last night with Infante at second, and the Tigers’ Darin Down pitching an inning. The 4-2 victory over Fort Wayne was also the first win for 19-year-old prospect Jake Thompson with the ‘Caps. Infante only had two at-bats in the game, though, going 1-2 with a single and a strike-out. He left the game in the fourth innings, and reports state he will make his way back to Detroit to be re-evaluated. Downs came into the game to pitch the sixth inning. He pitched a scoreless inning with one strike-out. Offensively, Connor Harrell tied the game with a two-run jack in the fourth, while Danry Vasquez and Jared Reaves each recorded an RBI in the fifth. Closer Corey Knebel earned the save the hard way, pitching out of a one-out jam with two runners in scoring position. Omar last played for the Whitecaps back in 2000 where he split the season between West Michigan and Lakeland, hitting .267.
Former Detroit Tigers and West Michigan Whitecaps pitcher Jair Jurrjens is back. The Tigers signed him to a minor league deal, and he will report to the Toledo Mud Hens today. He last pitched in Detroit in 2007, before being traded to Atlanta. Despite his health issues, the Tigers are hoping to put him into the rotation, and not the bullpen as of yet.
“He kind of came on the scene pretty good,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland stated. “Pretty calm. Pretty collected. Make a good impression. Evidently, he’s had a lot of health issues since we had him, so I don’t have any recent update on him.”
Back in 2007, he went 3-1 with the Tigers, with a 4.70 ERA. Pitching for the Whitecaps in 2005, we was 12-6, with a 3.41 ERA and 108 strikeouts. He was a member of the ‘Caps 20th anniversary team.
Photo courtesy of wizardkitten
Over on MiLB.com, the Mascot Mania is in full force, with ever fuzzy animal, alien, or funny looking man-thing represeting a Minor League franchise fighting for mascot supremecy. The kids and I have encountered and have been entertained by some great ones on our travels, and here are some of our favorites. Keep in mind, the list will only consist of the mascots we’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting or seeing. This list was also a lot harder to put together than you’d think, trying to narrow so many fun entertainers down to just nine. Ok, then, let’s see where they stand:
9) Rowdie-Indianapolis Indians: We’re not sure yet what exactly Rowdie is, but he sure is fun. He does a good job of getting around the stadium and getting pics with the kids.
8) Mr. Shucks-Cedar Rapids Kernels: Well, this guy just looks really cool. He does a nice job of getting the crowd riled up in Cedar Rapids.
7) Reedy Rip’ It-Greenville Drive: Reedy is a bit of a Wally ‘rip’ off, but that’s ok with me. The Drive is a BoSox affiliate, and they get lots of ideas from them. Reedy did a great job of interacting with the fans.
6) Paws-Pawtucket Red Sox: Ok, another BoSox affiliate. Paws is all over the place, and is marketed very well.
4) Gnate the Gnat-Savannah Sand Gnats: Gnate is really cool, and is always interacting with the fans and kids. Made my trip a little more fun.
3) Loe E. Loon-Great Lakes Loons: Ok, the Loons are one of our regular teams now, so we really know first hand how hard Lou E. works. Along with Rall E. Camel, he does a super job at Dow diamond.
2) Slugger-Portland Sea Dogs: I really loved being at the Sea Dogs game, and Slugger made it even more fun. He’s just a cool mascot, in my opinion. And I guess that’s what counts on this blog…
1) Crash the River Rascal-West Michigan Whitecaps: Ok, was there ever much doubt? Yes, it’s a homer call, but Crash is really awesome. He makes the kids laugh and gets around the stadium well to interact with the fans. He and his buddy Franky the Swimming Pig are the best.
Ok, so there’s my take on the Mascot Mania. Be sure to go and vote for your favorites HERE. Good luck to all the masconts in my Prime 9. What’s yours?
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
It may be hard to believe, but it’s barely half-way through July and our Little League baseball season has already come to an end. Just when it seems the kids are starting to ‘get it’, and learn the game, the rug gets pulled out from under us. I guess when you live in a northern part of a northern state, the summer sports take a back seat to just about everything else. This is the hand we’ve been dealt, however, and it’s up to us to make the best of it. And make the best of it, we did. I am very lucky to have coached such great kids this season. We had a lot of fun, and I’m hoping that they all continue to play in the future. I really enjoy coaching at this level (tee ball), and like to believe I’m making a positive influence to their first experiences with baseball. Before Trevor sprained his shoulder, I was having fun helping coach his team, too. Sometimes it’s easier just to be an assistant and only worry about teaching the kids baseball. If the x-rays this week prove positive, he should still be able to participate in the Beach Bums Baseball Academy next week. As for Brian, it amazes me just how good this kid can play at times. He had a great season, also, and really enjoys baseball. Sometimes he gets frustrated when the ball isn’t hit to him, but is learning how to share and be a good team-mate. He has good speed, and a good throwing arm, and is starting to get his glove on the ball. When we play by ourselves, we lose the tee and hits live pitching like a boss. So much so, that I signed him up with the Battle Creek Bombers kids club to take batting practice with the team next weekend. In closing, I’ll miss my team and playing with them every week. Even just adding more games or practices on the weekends would help all the kids out, and give me a chance to do what I love to do.
For anyone who cares for the prospect ratings, one of the most respected analysts is ESPN’s Keith Law. Also, for anyone who cares about the Detroit Tigers, the only prospect who appears on his top 50 list is outfielder Nick Castellanos. Castellanos has moved up to number 22 on the list, but some feel his value has actually gone down since moving to the outfield. After seeing him play in West Michigan in 2011, his defense at third wasn’t really his strongest tool. He wasn’t horrible, mind you, but a move to the outfield in an organization that sports Miguel Cabrera at the hot corner, can only be a positive move for him. Castellanos started the season ranked at 38, but is having a solid season in his first year at Triple-A with the Toledo, batting .281 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI’s. In June, he pounded out a .361 average with five home runs, but has slumped a tad in July. He has gone 3-6 after the Triple-A All-Star Game, however, a game he missed due to the birth of his first child.
Here’s what Law stated from ESPN: “Castellanos is now a full-time right fielder, which hurts his potential value relative to what it might have been had he stayed at third base, but he’s putting together a solid season as one of the International League’s youngest everyday players, working the count more effectively while already setting a career high in home runs. He might be more above-average regular than superstar after the position switch, which still makes him very valuable and a likely trade target for sellers this month.”
Nick is not exclusive to right field, though, and has played in left for Toledo and Erie last year. If the Tigers do decide to move Castellanos, it should be for a player that will not only improve their chances at a World Series this season, but for years to come. He’s still only 21-year-old, so plenty of time for him to develop and not rush his Major League debut, which some feel will come this September. For the Whitecaps in 2011, Castellanos hit .312 with 36 doubles, seven home runs, and 76 RBI’s. He is currently ranked 15th on the prospect list released by Baseball America, also.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
The Traverse City Beach Bums sent six players to the Frontier League All-Star Game in Washington, PA. Scott Dunn was named the starting pitcher for the East squad, and with good reason. He recently set the record by becoming the first pitcher in the history of the FL to start 10-0 on the season, and has a 1.98 ERA. He pitched the first inning of the All-Star Game, using only six pitches to retire the three batters without giving up a hit. Taylor Wrenn was the starting short-stop for the East. Hitting .302 with 11 doubles, three triples, five home runs, and 28 RBI’s, he was an easy choice. Wrenn went 0-3 at the plate in the game, however. Catcher Marcus Nidiffer made his second straight appearance in the ASG, last night. He came in to pinch-hit in the seventh inning, going 0-1. For the season, Nidiffer is batting .252 with 18 RBI’s. Big Chase Burch made his presence felt this week, also. He was the runner-up in the home run derby, and was 0-0 in the game, with a run scored after a base on balls, and getting hit by a pitch. Burch is hitting .305 this season, with nine home runs, and 42 RBI’s. He is also among the leaders in runs scored, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, base on balls, sacrifices and hits. Pitcher Jake Sabol is 6-4 so far this season, with a 2.36 ERA. He pitched a scoreless eigth inning for the East, with one strike out. Relief pitcher Nick Capito entered the ASG with a 2-0 record and a miniscule 0.76 ERA. He has struck out 37 batters this season, keeping them to a .117 batting average against him. He did his job last night, facing one lefty hitter in the ninth, and striking him out. Unfortunately for the Bums and the East, the West won this game by the score of 4-2. Congratulations to all of the Beach Bums All-Stars for 2013, though. We look forward to seeing them play again this season.
Hitting well off of a major league pitcher is every minor league baseball players dream, even if it happens to be in a rehab start. The West Michigan Whitecaps got to re-habbing Chicago Cubs pitcher Scott Baker early, while he was pitching for the Kane County Cougars. The ‘Caps nabbed Baker for four runs in the bottom of the first inning on four hits. Leading the way with a two-run triple was Jason King, followed by a two-run homer by Lance Durham. Also adding to the onslaught, was Jake Stewart, with his team-leading ninth home run of the season, and added a double to go 2-4 on the day. Jared Reaves was productive also, going 2-3 in the game. He told MLive.com on facing a pro like Baker: “It’s always good to face a big leaguer”, Reaves stated. “But we try to take the same approach. I try to treat it no different than a Single-A guy.” Also pleased is West Michigan’s hitting coach, Scott Dwyer: “A couple of weeks ago, we were struggling to score runs. Most of these guys, it’s their first year of professional baseball. They were tired. But now some of them are getting a second wind.” The win was the last of a Whitecaps four game winning streak, in which they pounded the ball, in which they beat Clinton 13-1 and 3-2, and Kane County 9-1 and 5-2. Baker, in his defense, is coming off Tommy John surgery, and the goal of a re-hab stint really isn’t to strike out as many minor leaguers as possible, but just to gauge the arm and it’s progress. I’m proud of how the Whitecaps hit off of him, but hope Baker heals and has a successful career with the Cubs.
Midland, MI-July 2-3: The first two game of the series were played at Dow Diamond. In game one, ‘Cap second baseman Harold Castro’s ninth inning home run broke West Michigan’s losing streak with a 4-3 win. He was 2-4 in the game, while Zach Kirksey was 2-3. For the Loons, Aaron Miller hit a home run of his own in the sixth inning, to tie the game at three. He was 2-4 on the night, also, while third baseman Leo Rodriguez went 3-4. On the mound, Angel Nesbitt earned the win to improve to 3-1, while Corey Knebel got the save. Arismendy Ozoria took the loss for the Loons. Great Lakes would take conrol the next night, however, pounding the Whitecaps 8-0. Shortstop Corey Seager went 2-3 with four RBI’s to lead the Loons offensively. Rodriguez and Miller each went 2-4, also. The Whitecaps only managed four hits during the game, with 16-yr-old Julio Urias getting the win. He pitched six shut-out innings while striking out eight. Endrys Briceno took the loss for the ‘Caps, giving up four earned runs in three innings of work.
Comstock Park, MI-July 4-5: Both teams would re-unite at Fifth-Third Ballpark on Independence Day! The Whitecaps continued their defensive woes, however, and fell to the Loons 7-5. They committed two errors and one miscue that led to two Loons’ runs. Three of the Loons runs were unearned in the game. Left-fielder Robbie Garvey had a nice game for Great Lakes, though, going 2-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. For the Whitecaps, Jason King went 2-2, with two runs scored, and RBI, and two walks. On the mound for West Michigan, Chad Smith started the game, but Yorfrand Lopez took the loss, giving up three runs in just over three innings. Geoff Brown earned the win for the Loons, pitching five innings giving up one earned run and striking out five. In the final game of the series, the Loons would take a 2-0 lead early, but watched the ‘Caps roll off seven in a row. Zach Kirskey lead the offensive charge for the ‘Caps, going 1-3 with a home run, two runs scored, and three RBI’s. Helping out was Danry Vasquez, going 2-3 with a double and two RBI’s, and Jason King who went 2-3 with a home run, two runs scored, and an RBI. Malcolm Holland delivered a solid game for Great Lakes, going 2-3 with an RBI and two walks. For the ‘Caps, Charlie Gillies won his first game of the season in the 7-2 win. Arismendy Ozoria took the loss, giving up six runs in two innings. It was a good series for both teams, especially West Michigan, who has been struggling as of late. The Loons are in first place of the Midwest League East.
Bottom photos courtesy of Emily Jones/MLive.com
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods (Midwest League)
Fifth-Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: It’s that time of year again, when myself and the little nerf-hearders head down to Star Wars Night. This year, we were back at the Fifth-Third Ballpark, with the Whitecaps as our host. Despite the weather report calling for rain, it all held off and it was a beautiful night. The kids were able to meet all of their favorite Star Wars characters, and some of the guys in the suits were pretty darn funny. They kept the sold out crowd entertained until the game started, and were more than happy to pose for pictures for the kids. This was one of the best Star Wars nights we’ve been too so far. We tried for some Whitecaps autographs, but got very few as the players didn’t walk by the fans due to the Star Wars guys.
As for the game itself, it was another dismal one for the Whitecaps. They’ve had a tough time offensively ever since Devon Travis was promoted. DH Lance Durham did go 2-4 on the day, however, but short stop David Gonzalez was the only one able to strum up an RBI. Chad Smith took the loss on the hill for West Michigan, giving up only two earned runs, though, and striking out three. Corey Knebel came in for the ninth inning, and stayed perfect so far since joining the ‘Caps. Final score: Whitecaps 1, Hot Rods 3.
We also got this picture taken by MI Unlimited Photography: