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
For the second season in a row, the West Michigan Whitecaps are left without a manager. Unlike last season, however, this change comes with a promotion. Larry Parrish (pictured), who led the ‘Caps to a 69-70 finish in the Midwest League, has been promoted to helm the Toledo Mud Hens in 2014. This isn’t his first experience with Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate, as he managed Toledo in 1994 and from 2003-2010. Under Parrish, the Mud Hens won back to back Governor’s Cup (International League) championships in 2005 and 2006. Parrish has won more games for Toledo than any other manager at 569. It looks like three times a charm for him, as he has some great support from the parent club Tigers, as well as the Hens.
“As a manager, he’s a great teacher, and I know we’ll see improvement in player development,” said Toledo’s general manager and team president Joe Napoli in a press release. “For our fans, he’s always been a favorite, they will be glad to welcome him back.”
“He’s going to be missed,” stated Whitecaps vice president Jim Jarecki to MLive.com. “Having LP on board, he was a great guy on and off the field. He was great to work with and the guys really liked and respected him. Even though the record didn’t reflect it, the players gravitated to him and he was a great leader.”
This is a good move by the Tigers’ organization, and a deserved promotion for Parrish, as he’s already in the International League Hall of Fame. We already have a couple of dates circled on the calendar for season to watch the Mud Hens, so we’ll be seeing him again soon. Now…what about the Whitecaps? The Single-A affiliate is once again in need of a skipper, and it will be interesting to see who the Tigers will assign. I’ve written in the past how I think that Brandon Inge would be a good fit in West Michigan. The Tigers’ have basically stated that they’d like him back in the organization once his playing days are done, and Inge always said positive things about the ‘Caps. We’ll see if he retires at the end of the season, though, and if he shows interest in coaching. Jarecki aslo stated the Tigers should name the ‘Caps new manager sometime in early October, so the safer bet may be seeing the promotion of Connecticut Tigers manager Andrew Graham. He has been at the helm of the C-Tigers for the last three seasons, and before that coached the Gulf Coast League Tigers from 2009-2010. He also served as the Tigers minor league catching coordinator during the 2010 season. This season, Graham led Connecticut to a 33-42 finish, good for third place in the New York-Penn League‘s Stedler Division. He is also a Tigers product, getting drafted by Detroit in 2003, and was a catcher in the organization from 2003-2008. A native of Sydney, Australia, Graham also played in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009. I’ll be keeping a close eye on who gets the West Michigan job. The Whitecaps have missed the playoffs the last three season, so whoever is chosen I hope they can break that streak in 2014.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest League)Cooley Law School Stadium-Lansing, MI: Both the West Michigan Whitecaps and the Lansing Lugnuts missed the playoffs this season, but ended 2013 with their in-state rivalry. Despite the ‘Caps having a better record this season, the Lugnuts have had their number, and that includes taking 2/3 in the final series. In the first game, the Whitecaps made a gallant come-back attempt, only to lose in a walk-off in the ninth. Jake Stewart and Bennett Pickar hit back-to-back singles, when the Lugnuts brought in Arik Sikula to close the game. Sikula threw a wild pitch and had a passed ball, though, that scored Stewart. Then David Gonzalez hit a triple, scoring the pinch-runner Harold Castro to tie the game. The ‘Caps celebration was short-lived, however, as a walk and two singles gave Lansing the win, and Corey Knebel his only loss of the season. Kevin Patterson hit the winning RBI in the 5-4 win for the Lugnuts. The second game of the series was a complete rout for the Whitecaps, winning the game 13-1. The ‘Caps scored five runs in both the third and fourth innings, one in the sixth, and two in the eighth with 19 total hits. Jared Reaves led the way going 4-6 with an RBI and two runs scored. Raph Rhymes went 3-4 with a double and two runs scored. Connor Harrell and Jake Stewart each contributed with three RBI’s each. On the mound, West Michigan was just as dominant. Calvin Drummond earned the win, going five innings, giving up only three hits, and striking out four. Kramer Chaplin took the loss for Lansing. The final game of the series, and of the season, went to the hometown Lugnuts by the score of 9-4. The Whitecaps had a 4-0 lead at one point, but surrendered nine streight to the ‘Nuts. Jeff Holm, Pickar, Castro, and Jason King each had two hits in the loss. Daniel Klein led the way for Lansing, going 3-4 with two doubles, two RBI’s, and a run scored. Relief pitcher Yorfrank Lopez took the loss, giving up six hits and five runs in just over an inning of work, while Ian Kadish earned the win for Lansing.
Lucky for me, I had a buddy from work attend one of the games and get this photo for me. It will be a long nine or so months before seeing baseball again for sure. We’ll try to get to Lansing next season of the weather cooperates, and we’ll hit a few Whitecaps games for sure, including the Midwest League All-Star game hopefully.
Photo courtesy of B. Faulkner
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Back, again, just north of Grand Rapids for our last Whitecaps game of the season. A very bitter-sweet moment, but so much going on at this game, I’m not sure where to start. First, Brian was happy they had a ‘bounce castle’ set up in the parking lot. We didn’t have much time for him to play, but he still was able to bounce around for a little while before we made our way into the stadium. Upon entry, each of us received a free mini-bat, to commemorate the ‘Caps 20th season of play. Brian has been collecting the bats lately, so more for him. It was super hero night at the ballpark, just like in Battle Creek last month, but the only ones dressed up were the Whitecaps’ on-field staff. Still, some of them has some cool outfits. We were at the ballpark early, so we saw the Captains take some batting practice, and waited for the home team to hit the field for their warm-ups. We went down to field level, where we met former Tigers’ relief pitcher, and current ‘Caps pitching coach, Mike Henneman. He was nice enough to sign a baseball card for Brian (a future hurler, himself!). Before the game got underway, we were also entertained by team Ghostrider: basically monkeys riding around on dogs. They would appear a few time throughout the game, herding goats and riding away. When monkeys act like cowboys, everybody wins! It didn’t take the kids long to get hungry, and Lily, Brian, and their Papa stuck with traditional hot dogs. Trevor and I, however, wanted to try the Baco! We made our way through the concourse, and with a sold-out crowd we were moving slowly. We took a break, though, to check out the Whitecaps 2007 Midwest League Championship trophy that was on display. The team was also celebrating the championship during this game, too. We finally made it to the other side of the ballpark to get our Bacos. Trevor didn’t care for it too much, but I thought it was pretty good. Not worth $6 each, but had to do it. Unfortunately the Whitecaps has some of the slowest concessions ever, so we missed a good chunk of the game waiting in line. We decided to head back to our seats through the lower bowl, which was a good idea because Trevor got a foul ball that bounced our way. We were finally able to sit down and enjoy the rest of the game, which was a good one. The ‘Caps also provided post-game fireworks that the kids really love, too. It was a hectic night all around, and sold-out crowds will do that, but still hard to wrap my head around the fact it will be a minimum of nine months before I’m enjoying baseball at Fifth-Third Ballpark again!
Like I stated, the game between the ‘Caps and the Captains was a good one. West Michigan was down 2-0 in the third, but busted out for three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Connor Harrell and David Gonzales started it off with a pair of singles, then Lake County started walking some batters. The Whitecaps scored two runs on walks, then Jason King hit a sac fly for the third run. In the fourth inning, Jeff Holm hit a solo shot to put the ‘Caps up 4-2. West Michigan concluded the scoring in the eighth inning, when Lance Durham hit his team leading 14th home run, after King singled. On the hill for West Michigan, Edgar De La Rosa pitched a solid game, only giving up the two runs in six innings of work. He struck out four and didn’t walk any of the Lake County hitters. The bullpen finished the job, throwing four shutout innings, with Corey Knebel closing the door in the ninth. Holm lead the offense going 2-4, and Gonzalez went 2-3. Final Score: Whitecaps 6, Captains 2.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Next season, Fifth Third Ballpark, home to the West Michigan Whitecaps, will be hosting the Midwest League All-Star Game. The announcement was actually made during the seventh inning stretch at last Saturday night’s game that we attended. Next season’s classic will also be the 50th All-Star Game for the MWL, and will take place on Tuesday, June 17. This will be the third time West Michigan has hosted the event, with the first time being in 1995, and again in 2003.
“This is a bid deal for us”, Whitecaps President Scott Lane stated to MLive.com. “Not only are we hosting the Midwest League’s premier event, but we’re hosting it in it’s 50th year. We intend to put on a grand show for the fans, executives and players of the 16 teams in the league. We will showcase not only Fifth Third Ballpark during the two-day event, but West Michigan as well.”
All I can say, is that I have to make this game. I’ll be waiting to jump on some tickets when they go on sale for sure. Attending an All-Star Game is definitely on my baseball bucket list, and where better than at my home-team Whitecaps!
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
There’s still a few weeks left in the minor league season, but already the West Michigan Whitecaps maybe be seeing their playoffs hopes slipping away. They currently are 6.5 games out of first place, and sixth in the Midwest League West, and very much in danger of not making the playoffs for the third year in a row. They just completed a home stand where they went 1-5, including a three game sweep by in-state rival the Lansing Lugnuts. The first two games of the series were some what competitive, losing 6-2 and a close 2-1, but it’s the series finales’ 14-5 shallacking that has Whitecaps’ fans concerned. The Lugnuts scored nine runs in the third inning alone, and led the game 12-0, and had 16 hits. One of the reasons was the play of Lansings’ Emilio Guerrero, who went 6-6 on the night, with five RBI’s and three runs scored. His 6-6 night ties a Midwest League record. The Whitecaps are just under .500 for the second half at 25-27 (including last night’s win in Dayton), and 58-64 overall, but will have to find a way to win on the road to gain some ground in the five teams in front of them.
“We had a long home stand and this was time to get back in it,” West Michigan manager Larry Parrish told the Grand Rapids Press. “Instead we go 1-5 and we’re going on a long road trip. So now we have to do something we haven’t been able to do all season-put together a long winning streak. That’s tough.”
In the 14-5 loss, Endrys Briceno took the loss, after giving up 10 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. The Whitecaps scored their share of the runs in the fourth inning, when Jake Stewart hit a two-run home run, Dean Green (who went 4-5 on the night) had a two-run single, and Connor Harrell added a RBI double. I hope things look much brighter for the ‘Caps when we see them next weekend. Stranger things have happened in baseball, and I’m hoping the ‘Caps will put together the wins they need for the post season.
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).
The 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
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.