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
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
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:
This is just a quick post, as we’re getting ready to head south to the Grand Rapids area for Star Wars Night at the Whitecaps game tomorrow night. The fans in West Michigan have been pretty busy, as the ‘Caps have had plenty of promotions on the current home stand. On Wednesday, the 1998 Midwest Championship team was honored and the ‘Caps wore throwback jerseys of the ’90′s. Last night was special, not only because it was ’70′s night, but of the visitors to Fifth Third Ballpark. First, Benjamin Hill of MiLB.com was on hand doing his baseball thing. He gets involved in all aspects of the team, including the concessions, promotions, and between inning games. Ben is simply my hero, and you can check out all of his hi-jinks at Ben’s Biz Blog. Also attending last night game, were member of the AHL Champion Grand Rapids Griffins and the Calder Cup trophy. Area fans had the opportunity to get photos with coach Jeff Blashill, players, and the Cup. I really would’ve loved to have been at last night game to meet Ben and the Griffins. Tonight is also a special night, as Detroit Tiger legend Lou Whitaker will be there to sign autographs for fans. Being a second baseman, I idolized ‘Sweet’ Lou growing up here in Michigan. My Little League obligations have kept me in town, though, but we’ll be at Star Wars night tomorrow!
Photo courtesy of West Michigan Whitecaps
There’s nothing like kicking off the second half of the Minor League Baseball season with an in-state rivalry. The Great Lakes Loons hosted the West Michigan Whitecaps at Dow Diamond in Midland, MI for the second season opener, taking two out of the three games. The Whitecaps took the first game by the score of 6-3. The ‘Caps were led offensively by Jeff Holm, who went 3-5 with a pair of doubles. Lance Durham and Connor Herrell also had two hits each for West Michigan. Herrell was making his professional debut after being drafted by the Tigers earlier this month, was 2-4 with a double, a run scored, an RBI, a base on balls, and a stolen base. The Loons actually opened the scoring in the first inning on a solo home run by Tyler Ogle. On the mound, relief pitcher Chad Smith earned the win, while Angel Sanchez took the loss, being charged with five earned runs, and nine hits over 5.1 innings. As a team, the ‘Caps had 11 hits in the game, and scored six unanswered runs.
Game two of the series was another exciting game, with Great Lakes taking the 9-7 win. Loons short stop Corey Seager went 3-4 with a pair of home runs to lead the offense. The Whitecaps battled back from being down 5-0, with a run-scoring triple by Holm and a three-run shot by Jake Stewart in the fourth. In the fifth, Jared Reaves and Devon Travis each hit doubles, and Herrell had a run-scoring base hit. Loons reliever Arismendy Ozoria earned the win, while Logan Ehlers took the loss for the ‘Caps. The Whitecaps had the bases loaded in the ninth, but the comeback fell short, as Jason King grounded out.
The Loons won the rubber-match also, 2-1, with a walk-off in the ninth-inning. Tyler Ogle blasted a double off ‘Caps relief pitcher Josh Turley that scored the winning run. Geoff Brown earned the win for Great Lakes, with Turley getting the loss. The star of the game, however, was West Michigan’s starting pitcher Jake Thompson, who struck out ten batters, a career high. The Tigers’ 19-year-old prospect gave up only three singles, and only one runner was in scoring position through the first eight innings. Tough loss for the ‘Caps and Thompson, but the win put the Loons’ fans into a frenzy!
Photo courtesy of Danielle McGrew/The Saginaw News