Archive for the ‘ Major Leagues ’ Category

Wil Myers wins AL ROY

bulls7Congrats to Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays on winning the  2013 American League Rookie of the Year award. I was lucky enough to see him play back in May while he was still a member of the Durham Bulls of the International League and even back in 2010 when he was playing for the Burlington Bees of the Midwest League. Wil posted a .293 average, with 13 home runs, and 53 RBI’s this season with the Rays. Just another example to get out to the Minor League ballparks when you get a chance. You never know what future award winners you’ll be witnessing.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

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Former Lugnut no-hits Tigers

Henderson Alvarez pitching for Lansing in 2009

Henderson Alvarez pitching for Lansing in 2009

Despite having one of the worse records in the Midwest League this season, the Lansing Lugnuts fared very well against their in-state rival West Michigan Whitecaps, affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Some of that magic must have sprinkled onto Lugnut alumni Henderson Alvarez, who, as a member of the Miami Marlins, through a no-hitter against the Tigers yesterday. Detroit had no answer for Alvarez, who needed on 99 pitches to shut down mighty Motor City team in a 1-0 victory. For Alvarez, the season ended much better than it began. He started the season on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, and missed the first three months of the season. Pitching for Lansing in 2009, he went 9-6 with a 3.47 ERA with 92 strike outs. Coincidentally, he faced five former Whitecaps in yesterday’s game: Don Kelly (0-4), Andy Dirks (0-3), Omar Infante (0-2), Nick Castellanos (0-1), and Roman Santiago (0-3). Former ‘Cap Luke Putkonen took the loss for Detroit, after giving up two hits, walking a batter, and throwing a wild pitch. A former West Michigan catching combo was left on the bench, however, as Alex Avila for Detroit, and Rob Brantly for the Marlins did not play. If the Tigers don’t break out of this offensive slump, it could be a short run in the play-offs this season.

Photo courtesy of the Lansing Lugnuts

Current and former Whitecaps dealt

Outfielder Danry Vasquez now with the Astros organization

Outfielder Danry Vasquez now with the Astros organization

It’s the trade deadline, and the Detroit Tigers decided to make some moves to improve the teams chances at making the post season. Unfortunately, the moves included trading away two West Michigan Whitecaps alumni, and one of their current players. The Tigers’ first move took West Michigan’s starting left fielder Danry Vasquez and sent him to the Houston Astros organization. In return, Detroit acquired relief pitcher Jose Veras. Vasquez struggled last season with the Whitecaps, but went down to Connecticut and ended up leading the NY-Penn League in hits. This season he’s been hitting .281 with five home runs and 39 RBI’s. He started the season hitting in the number three slot, but moved to lead-off hitter in June.  He will be staying in the Midwest League, however, suiting up for the Quad Cities River Bandits.

“It made me sad that I will be leaving the Detroit Tigers organization but it made me excited that Houston made a trade for me,” Vasquez stated to Ben Chiswick, the Whitecaps’ radio announcer (and courtesy of MLive.com).

Villarreal for RealThe Tigers next dealt outfielder Avisail Garcia and relief pitcher Brayan Villarreal to the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox in a three-way deal. The full deal sends Garcia to the ChiSox, Jake Peavy from Chicago to the BoSox, Villarreal to Boston, and the Tigers get short stop Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox. Iglesias is said to be one of the best young middle infielders in the game today, so it will be excited watching him in Detroit.  Villarreal has been sidelined in Toledo due to a thumb injury, but has been up with Detroit part-time for the last three seasons. He is 4-8 with a 4.56 ERA with the Tigers. During the 2008 season he split between the GCL Tigers and the Whitecaps, he was 1-6 with a 4.69 ERA and 37 strikeouts. He spent the entire 2009 season in West Michigan, going 5-5 with a 2.87 ERA and 118 strikeouts. As for Garcia, he was one of the top prospects in the Tigers organization, hitting .241 with two home runs and 10 RBI’s with the big club this season. He also played in West Michigan in 2009, splitting the season with the Lakeland Flying Tigers. He hit .264 with 31 RBI’s that year. Spending the entire 2010 season with the Whitecaps, he hit .281 with 17 doubles and 63 RBI’s. Good luck to all three players with their new clubs. We’ll still be keeping track of these guys.

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

Jurrjens back with Tigers

jairFormer 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

2013 Baseball Trip: No shoes, black sox, no problem

joe1‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson Museum-Greenville, SC: While in Greenville, we also visited the ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson Museum, which is located right behind Flour Field. The folks who run the museum are the nicest you’d ever meet, and they love their baseball. They stated that they spend more time at the museum than their own homes! They are also extremely knowledgeable about Joe and the history of baseball in the area. The museum is in Joe’s home that he had built-in 1940. Unfortunately, many of his trophies and memorabilia were taken after the death of his wife. It’s believed that family members came to the house and took most those items. It’s a nice little museum and a must for any baseball fan in the area, especially if your taking in a Drive game anyway.

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Me with a Black Betsy replica

Me with a Black Betsy replica

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There are still some nice relics in the museum, including a chair from old Comiskey Park

There are still some nice relics in the museum, including a chair from old Comiskey Park

joe6Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

Learning from the Pros

legendsclinicCarpenter Field-Charleviox, MI: This weekend the boys and I headed south to Charlevoix so Trevor could participate in a baseball clinic hosted by the MLBPAA Alumni and Little League Baseball. A good number of former Major Leaguers were on hand to teach kids ages 6-16. Some of the players on hand were Doug Mirabelli (Red Sox), Roger Mason (Tigers, Mets, Giants), Dennis Rasmussen (Yankees), Bruce Look (Twins), and Rob Ellis (Brewers). The alumni did a great job of giving the kids instruction in a positive manner, and they were all very patient with the younger kids. Trevor had a great time, and really learned from it. They were also talked to about respect and hard work, whether you’re playing baseball or doing anything else in life. My only regret, actually, is not fudging Brian’s age and letting him join the fun. He would have done very well, also. After the clinic the kids were given hot dogs, hamburgers, and chips for lunch, and the MLB Alumni signed autographs for them. The weather was beautiful, and it was a great day for us all around! I highly recommend it for anyone who wants their child to succeed.

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MLB Alumni Rob Ellis helps Trevor with his throwing mechanics

MLB Alumni Rob Ellis helps Trevor with his throwing mechanics

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Pitcher Roger Mason talking to the kids

Pitcher Roger Mason talking to the kids

Doug Mirabelli signs some baseballs for the kids

Doug Mirabelli signs some baseballs for the kids

Promotion courtesy of the MLBPAA

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

Bruce Rondon Q & A

Here’s a question and answer segment off of MiLB.com by Andrew Pentis. There’s been much talk about Bruce Rondon this season, and he’s been under the microscope all spring. After a few shakey innings, he’s settled down in his last few outings and thrown the ball pretty well. Hopefully he keeps his off-speed pitches under contol, and really helps the Tigers out this season. Rondon pitched for the ‘Caps in 2011, with a record of 2-2 with a 2.03 ERA, 19 saves, and 61 strike-outs. Here’s the interview by Pentis:

Bruce Rondon played for the Whitecaps back in 2011

Bruce Rondon played for the Whitecaps back in 2011

The last time the Tigers started grooming a closer with 100 mph heat and a tattoo running down his forearm, things didn’t go according to plan. Joel Zumaya, who sported flames on his skin and whipped his elbow high into the air and seemingly above his cap, struck out 97 batters in 62 games as a rookie in 2006. His violent motion limited him to an average of 27 relief appearances over the next four seasons, and he hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2010.

Bruce Rondon is not Joel Zumaya.

And his style gets results. After saving 29 games with three Detroit affiliates last season — nine more than his Opening Day goal — Rondon is MLB.com’s No. 92 prospect and in his first Major League camp. If he succeeds there, few among the long-tenured Tigers will remember at all the hurler he only slightly resembles.

Thanks to Tigers official Aileen Villarreal for transcribing and then translating Rondon’s Spanish into English.

MiLB.com: How would you describe your mind-set and approach while on the mound?

Rondon: That I’m the best.

MiLB.com: Has that always been your attitude?

Rondon: Always. Every time I’m on the mound, I always think I’m the best. Off the mound, I don’t think that, but when I’m on there I have to have that mentality, that I’m the best and that I’m invincible.

MiLB.com: Your repertoire should inspire self-assuredness. Tell us about it.

Rondon: Fastball, slider and changeup. The fastball, I try to throw over 100 [mph]. The changeup is around 92-93. The slider is around 86-88. From last year ’til now, I would say I have [improved my] control. I’ve worked very hard to control them.

MiLB.com: You’re obviously known for your fastball. Were you always able to throw hard growing up or did a specific mechanical change in your career increase your velocity?

Rondon: Yes, I could always throw the ball pretty hard. Actually, they didn’t let me pitch when I was young because I threw the ball too hard. Everyone knew [I could pitch], but they wanted me to hit. [Then I was converted] into a catcher.

MiLB.com: Could you have ended up playing that position?

Rondon: Honestly, I never loved being a catcher; my love was always pitching. It was something that always inspired me, that caught my attention, that motivated me. I felt happy pitching, and it was just always what I loved. so when they asked me if I wanted to pitch I was very excited and of course said yes. [That was when] I signed with the Tigers [on Sept. 12, 2007].

MiLB.com: Before you made your way to the States, what was baseball like at home in Valencia, Venezuela?

Rondon: The crowds over there are very aggressive. It’s a little crazy, but it can be motivating because when you do well, the whole stadium gets up and cheers. On the other hand, when you don’t have a good outing, you have to know how to handle it with the crowds. The greatest thing in the world for me is when my family is able to watch me play. Sometimes I’m sad when I’m playing here and look in the stands and they’re not there. When I was growing up, I would always tell my dad that I was going to pitch professionally so that they could watch me play.

MiLB.com: How good of a hitter were you? Do you think you could have made it as a position player?

Rondon: During batting practice, I was good, but not really during the game. Maybe after practicing, I could learn, but I don’t think so.

MiLB.com: How old were you when you turned to pitching full-time?

Rondon: I was 15. [I had] never practiced. I knew I could throw, but I had to start from point zero. When they told me I was going to pitch, I was so excited that I was going to be pitching that it didn’t matter about taking the hits I was going to take. I wanted to learn, so I started with just my fastball. I didn’t have any other pitches aside from my fastball. Once I got to the Tigers, they helped me with my pitching and I have really learned a lot.

MiLB.com: What is the fastest reading you’ve registered on a radar gun?

Rondon: 104 mph — against the [Class A Advanced] Yankees at their stadium in Tampa. My teammates told me after the game. They said, “Rondon, we have some news for you.” I asked them what had happened. They told me I had thrown the ball 104. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. Then they showed me the radar gun and I said, “Wow.”

MiLB.com: Have you ever been on a team with a pitcher who threw harder than you?

Rondon: It has always been me so far.

MiLB.com: That would seem to inspire a nickname. What’s yours?

Rondon: Up to this point, I have not gotten one.

MiLB.com: Bruce doesn’t seem like it would be a popular first name in Venezuela. Where does it come from?

Rondon: My dad loves Bruce Lee. My dad wanted to name me “Bruce Lee.” My mom didn’t want the “Lee,” but she was fine with the “Bruce.”

MiLB.com: Where does your dad’s admiration for the martial arts master come from?

Rondon: He loves all the Bruce Lee movies. He always asks me to get him Bruce Lee movies from here and shirts and those kinds of things. [Lee] was big for him because he made it to the United States by himself. My dad would always tell me that I would make it to the United States by myself and I was going to accomplish big things … and here I am now. Things have happened where I think, “Wow, my dad was right.”

MiLB.com: So your name works on a couple different levels …

Rondon: Maybe he chose that name became [Lee] never lost faith. I would always tell him that I loved baseball and he’d tell me, “Son, you have to work a lot and work hard because it will be very difficult for you to be in the United States by yourself.” I didn’t believe him because I was young, but everything that he told me was true. Sometimes [now] my family will call me and tell me, “Son, you came out in the newspaper next to Miguel [Cabrera],” and I tell them sometimes, “I’m next to him and can’t even believe it.”

MiLB.com: What would it mean for your family back in Venezuela if you make a Major League Opening Day roster?

Rondon: I’ll tell you this, they probably wouldn’t sleep the night before. They really wouldn’t sleep because that’s what they’ve been waiting for. If [the Tigers] tell me I’m making it, I probably won’t sleep that night, either, from thinking about it so much. Thinking to myself, “Wow, it’s me — I’m the closer.” It would really be something special if they gave me that news, like a dream come true.

MiLB.com: Do you notice a different feel to the ninth inning, compared with pitching in the seventh or eighth inning?

Rondon: Honestly, I don’t like throwing in the fifth, sixth, seventh innings. It just isn’t the same attention, it’s not the same adrenaline. When you come out in the ninth inning, people are waiting for the ninth inning. People are thinking, “Wow, there comes the closer.” And that is what motivates me, what gets me going.

Photos courtesy of MLive.com/MiLB.com

Whitecaps Alumni Update

Tigers release Boesch: After years in the Detroit Tigers system, the organization decided to release Boesch from his contract yesterday morning. Apparantly Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tried to offer him in a trade, but there were no takers. Not there aren’t any teams interested in him, but not at the $2.3 million offered to him by Detroit to avoid an arbitration hearing this winter. Yesterday was the last day they could have cut Boesch, and only be responsible for 1/6 of his salary, less than $400,000 (only..haha). Spring training has been a tough one for Boesch, who’s injury early in spring training put him behind in the running for the final outfield, or even bench position. He’s a career .259 hitter, but only batted .240 last season with 12 home runs and 54 RBI’s. He hit only .230 against right-handers, and Detroit left him off of the post-season roster. Ironic, because after he was injured in the 2011 play-offs, it was seen as a major loss, and a reason the Tigers bowed out to the Rangers. He did have a banner year in 2011, though, hitting .286 with a .799 OPS. Other teams have interest in him, though, including the Yankees, Mets, Astros, and now the Red Sox. Of the teams listed, I like to see him go to the Red Sox. He might do very well hitting at Fenway, and even if he was designated to Pawtucket, I’d be able to see him play in May in Charlotte! As a member of the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2007, Boesch hit.267 with 19 doubles, 10 home runs, and 86 RBI’s.

Brennan Boesch with the Whitecaps back in 2007

Brennan Boesch with the Whitecaps back in 2007

Welcome back, Moya: Steven Moya played his first spring training game yesterday, after returning from an elbow injury, which took Tommy John surgery to fix. He went 3-3 against Florida Southern College, with a triple, a double,two RBI’s, and three runs scored. He had a bases-loaded double that scored two runs, and helped the Tigers to an 11-0 victory. During a press conference dicussing the Boesch release, Dombrowski named off some outfield prospects, and his comment about Moya was: “Moya might be better than all of them”. He was having a great season for the Whitecaps last year before being injured. He was hitting .288, with 14 doubles, 13 home runs, and 39 RBI’s at only 20 years old. In 2011, he hit .204, with 10 doubles, 13 homers, and 39 RBI’s as a 19-year-old. Good improvement for him, and he really cut down on his strike-outs, too. Tigers manager Jim Leyland seems to like him, too.

“He’s a prospect, and a good one,” stated Leyland to MLive.com. “That’s where he stands right now. He’s an impressive young man.”

I’m not sure where Moya will start this season, but a good bet he’ll at least be in Double-a Erie by mid-season. I can see him at Single-A Advanced Lakeland due to him getting a late start this spring, and I’ll be tracking his progress this season for sure.

Steven Moya with the Whitecaps last season

Steven Moya with the Whitecaps last season

Photos courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps, Flickr, MLive.com

Villarreal Family in real danger!

Villarreal for RealI can’t even imagine what former West Michigan Whitecaps and current Detroit Tigers pitcher Brayan Villarreal was going through the other day. Being away from your family is difficult enough, but when they are in real danger, well, Villarreal stated he felt totally helpless. His family was back home in Venezuela, when they were robbed at gunpoint. His parents and brother arrived to their house, finding armed robbers already there. His father and brother were tied up, and the family was threatened they would be kidnapped. Lucky for them, one neighbor called the police when they suspected something was wrong at the house. Unfortunately both robbers escaped custody, even though one had received a gunshot wound.

“It was hard”, Villarreal told MLive.com. “I was mad. And then I couldn’t do anything because I was here. I was angry. That happened and now I’m good. They are good. They’re going to come here. They’re going to be safe. Thank God, everything is fine.” He continued about Venezuela, “It’s a very dangerous place. That’s my country. It’s sad to say that, but it’s very dangerous to live in Venezuela. I’ve thought about it. We’ve actually talked about coming here one day, but they didn’t want to before. I don’t know if they’re going to want to come now.”

Villarreal went on to state that the robbery seemed to be a random act, and not connected to him, or the fact that he’s a professional baseball player. Apparently they only broke in to steal a tv and maybe his car. If not, things could have gone much worse, and there may have been a kidnapping and ransom involved. So glad to know that his family is now safe. Again, I can’t even imagine going through something like this, and being in no position to help. Villarreal pitched one game with the Whitecaps in 2008, going 0-1. In 2009, he had a 5-5 record, 2.87 ERA, and 118 strike-outs.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Tigers Caravan hits Cadillac

papamib1Late last month the Detroit Tigers Caravan pulled to a stop in Cadillac, Michigan. Attending the event was my dad, a fellow baseball fanatic and companion on the annual baseball trip. He was able to earn the right to attend the festivities by being named to citizen of the year after receiving the  ‘Spirit of the Community’ award last summer. He was able to meet the players attending the event, and sit at the main table during the Chamber of Commerce ceremony. In the above picture, he’s with Quintin Berry, Drew Smyly, and Andy Dirks. Guests were not allowed to ask for autographs, but meeting the Tigers was a real thrill for him! All three players were great with all the baseball fans that showed up to support them. I’m very happy that my dad was able to be a part of this, and proud for all that he’s accomplished. He was given the award at last year’s Cadillac Area Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner, and had no idea he had even been nominated. He was nominated for this due to all his selfless acts around the community, and all he’s done for charity. He’s been an active member of the Kiwanis Club for thirty years, and is a Big Brother to a local high school student. He helps his student with his homework, and takes him fun places like baseball games. As a member of Kiwanis, he works the concession stand at area athletics events to raise money, has helped to renovate the local children’s camp, and build local playgrounds. Instead of being honored to meet the Tigers, the players should have been honored to meet him!papamib2Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

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