Archive for the ‘ Major Leagues ’ Category

Rondon closing in on Detroit

Whitecaps alum Bruce Rondon will be competing for the Tigers closer role this spring.

The Detroit Tigers need a closer. GM Dave Dombrowski stated in a news conference that the won’t be pursuing former closer Jose Valverde, for very apparent reasons. In the same breath he also mentioned West Michigan Whitecaps alumni Bruce Rondon for a candidate for the role. After all, free-agent closers are in short supply this off-season, and in this Borus-esque world, the most routine pitchers will be wearing high-end price tags. So, it would make sence for the Tigers to look into their farm system, and why not look at a kid who can hit 103 on the radar gun. The 21-year-old from Venezuela takes care of opposing batters with quick innings, and the GM in Detroit is taking notice.

“He’s a rare talent”, Dombrowski told the Detroit News. “You would not believe the number of clubs that have called me about Bruce Rondon to trade him. This guy is a closer, with the makeup of a closer. Normally, you’re not going to thrust that (job) in a young guy’s hands and say, automatically, ‘It’s your job’. But it would not surprise me if he earned that job.”

What DD means in the ‘makeup of a closer’, is that Rondon simply overpowers hitters. A closer needs to intimidate the opposition and deny them any chance of a rally. Throwing fastballs at 100 mph usually does that, but he also has an effective slider, and can thow in the change-up. He’s impressed his pitching coach at Double-A Erie, too, former ‘Caps coach Ray Burris.

“The average is 99-100″, Burris also told the News. “It’s a comfortable velocity for him. But, he’ll also throw 103, and then maybe back off to 95 or 96. He’ll throw that slider at 91 and his change-up is up at 88-89. If you look at the discrepancies in velocities, what you see is that he knows what pitching is all about. He knows when to back off. And he knows when to get the strikeout. It just shows this young man, at his age, has a great feel for pitching.”

He spent the 2011 season with the Whitecaps, where he walked 34 batters in 40 innings of 41 games. He did, however, have 61 strikeouts and only 22 hits against him. In 2012, he played High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A ball. At Lakeland, he gave up only 12 hits and struck out 34, and only walked nine in 23+ innings. At Erie in 21+ innings, he also had nine walks, with 23 strikeouts and gave up five hits. He did struggle a bit in Toledo, though. He gave up six walks and five hits, while striking out nine. The Tigers drafted him in 2007 when he was only 16 years-old. Rondon is currently pitching for Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelen Winter League pitching in three games, six innings, while striking out five and walking five. The opposition is only hitting .158 against him. Hopefully this success will carry over to spring training, and a spot on the Tigers roster.

Photo courtesy of MLive.com

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Fields back as Minor League hitting coordinator

Fields with his sons back when he coached the Whitecaps. Daniel, right, spent this season with the Erie SeaWolves in Detroit’s system.

Bruce Fields is back with the Detroit Tigers organization as their new Minor League hitting coordinator. He got his start with the Tigers almost ten years ago, and is back after a stint with the Cleveland Indians as their hitting coach. After the change in management, Fields’ contract wasn’t renewed in Cleveland. The change brings him into a familiar situation, though, as he spent a good chunk of his playing career in the Tigers’ farm system. He made his Major League debut with Detroit in 1986. As a coach, he started with Class A Jamestown before being promoted to the Toledo Mud Hens. As manager of the Whitecaps, he coach current Tigers Omar Infante and Ramon Santiago. He sported an impressive 331-220 record in West Michigan, including three season with the league’s best record. Fields was twice voted the Midwest League’s Manager of the Year, and led the ‘Caps to MWL championship in 1998. He was inducted into the Whitecaps Hall of Fame in 2010.

Another perk to his job with the Tigers organization, is the opportunity to work with his son, Daniel, who is a 2009 draft pick of  Detroit, and spent last season with the Double-A Erie SeaWolves. He’s currently the 7th ranked prospect in the system, behind plays such as Bruce Rondon, Nick Castellanos, and Avisail Garcia. Coaching your own son isn’t always easy, but it can always be very rewarding.

“It’ll obviously be a challenging situation–the father-son, coach-player dynamic,” he told MLB.com. “But our dynamic is strong. Whereas some people I know say they have a hard time coaching their children, my son listens. We might not see eye to eye on everything, but they’ll listen. Both my sons are good that way. There won’t be any issues that way.”

Photo courtesy of Jim Hill

Omar

Former West Michigan Whitecap Omar Infante was the only player to really show up in the World Series for the Tigers (other than the gallant pitchers, who literally had 0 run support…). All he really has to show for this is a broken hand, but, hey,  at least he got on base, unlike the rest of his teammates. Maybe he and Sean Casey should start their own little club, or something…

Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps

The Tigers win the Pennant

The title pretty much says it all. With such a roller coaster ride in the regular season, it’s very gratifying to see the Tigers win the pennant and go back to the World Series. Although the bats were broke out in game 4, it was the starting pitching that really got this team here. The Yankees are not easy opponents, and two of the three games were won in extra innings. Yes I wanted the sweep, I wanted a route, but not because I’m a Yankee hater or anything. I simply respect the fact that they have the talent that can win, no matter what the score or the series. If the Tigers let up one bit, the Yanks might have extended this series. The 8-1 win gave Tiger fans a chance to relax just a little, and enjoy the road to the World Series in this one game. Of course the Tigers couldn’t have done it without a few former Whitecaps that worked their way up the chain to the big team’s roster. In yesterday’s game Avisail Garcia went 2-5 with an RBI, Omar Infante went 2-5 with two runs scored, and Andy Dirks was 3-5. Granted, without Miggy’s monster shot, Jhonny’s two homers, and the ACLS MVP Delmon Young, Detroit  wouldn’t be celebrating tonight, but it’s still fun to see the young guys help out. At this point it looks like another showdown with the St. Louis Cardinals is destined…and remember, it’s the Tigers turn.

Former West Michigan Whitecaps Brennan Boesch and Ramon Santiago celebrate the Tigers winning the American League Pennant!!!

Photos courtesy of the Associated Press(top)/USA Today(bottom)

They did it!!!

West Michigan Whitecaps alumni Omar Infante celebrates with his Tiger teammates after clinching the Central Division Title

Last night the Detroit Tigers clinched the American League Central Division title by beating the Kansas City Royals 6-3. This is the Tigers second Central title in a row, and the 14th division title in their history. As the team picked by most experts and fans from the get-go, the Tigs didn’t make it easy on any of us, and floundered for most of the season around or under .500 before making a final push the last two months of the season. Miguel Cabrera had another big day, going 4-5 with a home run. He’s now batting .329 and is definitely one of the favorites for the MVP. Miggy’s 203 hits, 40 doubles, 44 homers, 137 RBI’s have been equaled only three times in history…twice by Lou Gehrig and once by Babe Ruth. That’s pretty good company, I’d say. It would also be unMIBy of me not to mention the former Whitecaps that are on this championship team, like Alex Avila, Omar Infante, Don Kelly, Andy Dirks, Brennan Boesch, Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth, Avisail Garcia, Brayan Villarreal, Louis Marte, and Luke Putkonen. There. Now all is right with the world for the time being… Good luck to the Tigers in the playoffs!

Photos courtesy of the Associated Press

And Garcia make it 100!

The newest Major League player, Garcia played for the Whitecaps in 2009 and 2010

Congrats to outfielder Avisail Garcia, who became the 100th West Michigan Whitecaps alumni to play in Major League Baseball. He was called up to the Detroit Tigers Friday from the Double-A Erie Seawolves. He had a key RBI single in the Tigers 7-4 over the Chicago White Sox. He went 2-4 in last nights 4-2, and is now batting .429. Detroit would sweep the series, tying the ChiSox for first place in the AL Central Division. Garcia is the eight former Whitecap to be called up to a MLB team this season, with Tigers bringing up pitchers Casey Crosby, Luke Putkonen, Jose Ortega, and Thad Weber, as well as infielder Hernan Perez. Former Tigers 2007 Minor League Player of the year Gorkys Hernandez debuted with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, and catcher Rob Brantly debuted with the Marlins after being traded to Miami this month. Speaking with MLive.com about the Whitecaps organization was Toby Harrah, former roving hitting instructor, and now assistant hitting coach with the Tigers. He had nothing but good things to say about the organization and quality of the ballpark, coaches, and front office.

“It’s the best environment in the world for playing,” Harrah stated. “It’s a great atmosphere for young prospects. It’s a big-league ballpark where everything is first class. It’s a great way to introduce kids to playing professional baseball.”

Thirteen ‘Caps alumni were even part of Detroit’s Central Division championship team last season, including Alex Avila, Brennan Boesch, Brandon Inge, Ramon Santiago, Andy Dirks, Ryan Raburn, Scott Sizemore, and Duane Below. The Tigers organization has also used some former West Michigan players for trade, gaining the likes of Miguel Cabrera for Cameron Maybin. Whitecaps vice president Jim Jarecki also spoke with MLive.com about the teams’ milestone.

“We’re proud of them,” said Jarecki. “A good percentage of players who’ve gone on to the majors started here. They put on a professional uniform for the first time here and they are always going to remember that. For us to know that many of them were in Whitecaps uniforms is something that we’re very proud of and lends a lot of credibility to our organization.”

As for Garcia, he was signed by the Tigers back in 2007, and played in West Michigan in 2009-10 as a teenager. He hit .281 in 2010 with 17 doubles and four home runs. With Boesch struggling this season, the right field position could be open if Garcia can make the best of his playing time, and help the Tigers to the playoffs.

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Brantly gets the call to Miami

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

Former West Michigan Whitecaps catcher Robert Brantly has been called up to the Miami Marlins, and is the 99th ‘Caps Alumni to play in a Major League Baseball game. He was drafted in the third round in 2010 by the Detroit Tigers, and played in West Michigan during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He played in 52 in 2010, hitting .255, and was hitting .303 last season in 75 games before being promoted to the Lakeland Flying Tigers. This season, he was batting .254 in 36 games for the Toledo Mud Hens before being traded along with Jacob Turner and Brian Flynn in exchange for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez. A trade I wasn’t completely happy with, I might add.  While with his new Triple-A team in New Orleans, Brantly was hitting. .365 in 14 games. So far with the Marlins, he was 0-3 in his first game, and 1-3 in last night’s 5-3 loss to Colorado. As he’s the 99th Whitecaps Alumni in the majors, the organization is holding a contest to see who fans think will be number 100 here: http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120808&content_id=36348184&vkey=pr_t582&fext=.jsp&sid=t582

Brantly with Marlins GM Michael Hill signing his Major League contract.

Top photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Bottom photo courtesy of the Miami Marlins

 

‘The Bird’ is still the Word

My favorite baseball player of all time…Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych

Yesterday would have been the 58th birthday of former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych. The age of 58 is considered fairly young, as ‘The Bird’ was taken from us early in a tragic accident in 2009. Also ending early, was Fidrych’s baseball career. For that one magic season, though, in 1976, he showed the world what baseball was really all about. He started the season as a non-roster invitee at spring training, and ended the season leading the American League in wins with a 19-9 record, a 2.34 ERA, and winning the Rookie of the Year award. He also finished second in the Cy Young voting to Jim Palmer. More than all of that, the captured the imagination of a certain child in mid-Michigan…making him a baseball fan for life. I admit, I was caught up in all that Fidrych did on the mound, and it was no wonder opposing GM’s would beg Detroit to alter its rotation to make sure he would pitch in their stadium. They knew it would be a sell out. Fans all over the country couldn’t get enough of antics of talking to the ball and manacuring the mound. He would even congratulate his teammates on a good play, or go give them a pat on the back if they made an error. For years I carried a Fidrych card in my back pocket that I had cut off of the bottom of a Hostess Twinkies box. It’s corners are jagged and it has a crease down the middle, but I still have that card to this day and it is one of my most prized possessions. I was lucky enough to meet him back in 1995 at a baseball card show and he was very thankful for his fans. When my kids were born, I mailed him a coupled of cards and he was nice enough to sign them for Lily and Trevor and send them back. He is actually Lily’s favorite player, as she grew up with stories of his craziness on the mound, but I feel bad she will never be able to meet him. He had made a few appearances at the Whitecaps ’70′s nights, too, and that would have been a fun experience. I do have a DVD of a Monday Night Baseball game during the ’76 season, where he pitched a great game en route to a victory over the New York Yankees. I’m still always in awe that the crowd would not leave until he made a certain call. I think a lot of us kids saw in him what we saw in ourselves, just a kid having fun playing a game, which is the way it should be. Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych was larger than life. He was a super hero and a rock star all rolled into one. After all, he was the first athlete ever to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone…

Photos courtesy of the Detroit Tigers

‘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

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

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