Results tagged ‘ Grand Rapids Press ’

Graham promoted to manage Whitecaps

Andrew Graham played for the Whitecaps in 2004-05, and will manage them this season.

Andrew Graham played for the Whitecaps in 2004-05, and will manage them this season.

Andrew Graham, who managed the Connecticut Tigers of the NY-Penn League the last three seasons, will take the helm in West Michigan for the 2014 season. Former manager Larry Parrish was promoted to take over the Toledo Mud Hens last fall. Graham is the first Whitecaps alumni to come back and manage in West Michigan, as he was a catcher in 2003-04. He previously coach the Gulf Coast League Tigers from 2009-10, and served as the Tigers Minor League catching coordinator in 2010.

Graham, a native of Sydney, Australia, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 19th round of the 2003 draft. He played six seasons in the Tigers’s system, including the ‘Caps. In 2004, he helped West Michigan claim the Midwest League championship, hitting ,253 in 26 games. In 2005, he hit .190 in 32 games before being promoted to Lakeland.  He was also in attendance when the team won the 2007 MWL title, and seems to have fond memories of his time north of Grand Rapids.

“I loved it”, he stated to MLive.com. “West Michigan fans are just the best. The area is beautiful and, to me, it’s like the big leagues in the minor leagues.”

While in Connecticut, he led the Tigers to a 33-42 last season, 35-40 in 2012, and 39-31 in 2011. He seems to be ready for the step up to the Midwest League level.

“I’ve done three years in Connecticut, and I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong time, but I think I was able to handle myself there”, Graham said. “I think I developed good relationships with the players and I’m ready to do that with the Whitecaps.” While stating that he’s a players coach, “In that meaning I like to get to know the players and foster relationships to develop trust. I want them to know I have their backs when it comes to evaluating them and helping to develop their game.”

graham2Both the Whitecaps and Tiger organizations seem very pleased with the promotion of Graham. Jim Jarecki, the ‘Caps Vice President, stated to the Grand Rapids Press: “Andrew was definitely a player that you could look at and see that he had the make-up to manage once his playing days were over. Being the first former Whitecap to come back to manage in West Michigan is a great opportunity for him and I know that the Tigers are confident in his leadership skills to manage at this level.”

And Dan Lunetta, Detroit’s director of minor league operations had this to say: “After three years managing our Connecticut affiliate, we believe Andrew is ready to take the helm and advance to the Whitecaps. He has worked diligently and prepared himself well for the opportunity to advance to the next managerial step in our system. We’re also very pleased that for the first time, a former Whitecaps player as a Tiger will be managing the club. West Michigan is a very special place to play and work and we know Andrew is looking forward to returning to Grand Rapids with great anticipation.”

We wish him and the Whitecaps the best this coming season. We plan on making the trip down to a game in early April.

Photos courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps/MLive.com

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Slipping Away

wmlan1There’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.

wmlan3wmlan2Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press/MLive.com

Ten for Twenty

12527231-standardI don’t think that the West Michigan Whitecaps could have scripted last night’s game any better. Opening Day. Celebrating 20 years. Ten innings. A walk-off win. Add those together, and you get a night that Whitecaps fans won’t soon forget. West Michigan gave their fans something to cheer about right away in last nights’ game against the Dayton Dragons, by jumping out to a 3-0 lead. They let that slip away, however, but fought back to take a 6-3 lead. Things got more exciting, as the Dragons would tie it up again, and set up the extra inning. With Jeff Holm on second base representing the winning run, Jake Stewart blasted a fastball to right-center field to give his team the win, and Larry Parrish‘s debut a success.

“It was exciting,” Stewart stated to MLive.com. “I was looking for a fastball, something up in the zone, something I could hit through the infield, and I was fortunate to get something I could hit.”

12527239-standardThe ‘Caps pitching staff struggled in the cold Michigan weather, as five pitcher combined for eight walks and three wild pitches. Josh Turley earned the win, however, after shutting down the Dayton bats in the ninth inning. He pitched two innings and only gave up one hit. Starting pitcher Endrys Briceno lasted 3.2 innings, allowing two hits, two earned runs, walking three, and striking out four. Offensively, West Michigan was led by Stewart, who was 3-3 with two RBI’s, and a run scored. Also pitching in was second baseman Devon Travis, who went 2-5 with a triple, RBI and run scored. Designated hitter Lance Durham also went 2-5, with two doubles, and RBI and run scored. Austin Schotts and Danry Vasquez also added RBI’s in the game.  First year skipper Parrish seemed happy with the effort and end result, too.

“I thought we hit the ball pretty good, made a couple of nice plays in the field and, overall, we pitched very well when we threw strikes,” Parrish told MLive.com. “I mean, obviously, we had way too many walks and they really hurt us.”

12527235-standardYeah, this is just the first game, but a great way to kick off the season. We’ll have to get down and see this team play sooner than later. I’m not sure I can wait a whole month!

12527240-standard12527234-standardPhotos courtesy of Latara Appleby/MLive.com/Grand Rapids Press

Season end in West Michigan

The West Michigan Whitecaps ended their season this week. Despite missing out on the playoffs and losing the final game of the season 7-3 to the Dayton Dragons, they did end up with a winning record, and a lot of high points. They did end up in third place in the Midwest League‘s Eastern Division, and were the fifth best team overall this season. Their final record was 72-68, going 36-34 in both halves of the season.

The Whitecaps meet their fans at the gate in the final game of the 2012 season!

“We came up a bit short, but if you look at the big picture, we had a very successful year,” second baseman Brandon Loy told the Grand Rapids Press. “We didn’t make the playoffs, it goes by halves, but if you look at the full year perspective, I think we had one of the better teams. We have some mixed emotions because we wanted to be in the playoffs, but it was a fun year for us and we had great guys on this team.”

Before their last game, the Whitecaps players greeted their fans as they entered the stadium, thanking them for their support and taking the time to come watch them play. This is a pretty classy move, and find it a great way to continue the great fan support that they get. After the game, the crowd gave the team and standing ovation, as they once again gave thanks. The praise is well deserved for both fans and players. This team played hard, but was struck with injuries and promotions that prevented the team from a real hot streak. That’s baseball, however, especially in the minors. The Whitecaps had 74 roster moves and placed a player on the disabled list 14 times, 11 of those since June. A total of 357 games were missed by players on the DL. Manager Ernie Young is proud of his team and their competitiveness, despite all of the setbacks.

“We dealt with a lot of injuries early, and we had a lot of injuries late, but we still were able to compete,” Young told the Grand Rapids Press. “Although short-handed, we were competitive and we gave ourselves an opportunity to be successful, which for me was a success. We have the fifth-best record in the Midwest League and third best in our division and we didn’t make the playoffs. They system’s not fair but it’s in place for a reason. The changes we made we were able to compete, but we just weren’t able to get on a big enough roll to separate ourselves from the middle of the pack.”

Young was also asked what grade he’d give the season and he stated a ‘B’. He was impressed with the pitching staff who had the second-best ERA  in the MWL at 3.45. Four West Michigan starters made 23 or more starts, and Tommy Collier’s 2.74 was fourth overall in the league. On another positive note, Marcelo Carreno was named the MWL Pitcher of the Week for his two performances against the Dragons. The last outing he only allowed four hits and struck out 13 batters. Relief pitcher Jade Todd was also named the Detroit Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Month, along with Adam Wilk. Todd struck out 21 hitters in 15 2/3 innings in August, earning two wins and a save for the Whitecaps. Well, there’s always next year, and for me April can’t come soon enough.

Photos courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps/Grand Rapids Press/MLive.com/Sally Finneran

Whitecaps play not too little, but too late

For the second time this season, the West Michigan Whitecaps came up just short of securing a spot in the 2012 Midwest League playoffs. Also, for the first time in franchise history, the ‘Caps will be missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Despite winning nine of their last 13 games, West Michigan was eliminated from the playoff race with a loss to Fort Wayne Friday night. The teams went 15-5 down the stretch in the first half of the season, but were unable to catch Bowling Green for that spot. Maybe they needed a miracle, or…maybe they needed starting pitcher Marcelo Carreno…

Marcelo Carreno recorded 13 strikeouts against the Dayton Dragons on Saturday night

Just one day after being eliminated, Carreno and the Whitecaps came home to Fifth-Third Ballpark and took everything out on the Dayton Dragons. Carreno recorded 13 strikeouts in the 7-1 victory, carving up the Dragons with his nasty curveball. He threw six scoreless innings and finished with game with 66 strikes on 89 pitches. Carreno’s 13 strikeouts were a career high, and the most by a starting pitcher this season.

“My curveball was amazing tonight”, he told the Grand Rapids Press. “Their hitters couldn’t hit my curveball so just used it a lot. Every time I got two strikes on a hitter, I went to the curveball and it was a strikeout. My fastball and change-up was good, too, and I could close my eyes tonight and throw the ball for a strike. We didn’t make the playoffs, and we feel bad about that, but we keep playing hard. We are a winning team.”

Offensively, the ‘Caps scored six runs in the second inning to help secure the win. Eugenio Suarez had an RBI single and Jason King hit a two-out single to make it 6-0. In the fifth inning, Colin Kaline added an RBI single to score King, who had a double to lead off the inning. Kaline, King, and Suarez each had two hits in the game. Unfortunately, it was a little too late for the ‘Caps, but they will still end the season with a winning record. We went to their second-to-last game yesterday, and I’ll post pics of that game soon.

Photos courtesy of Sally Finneran/Grand Rapids Press/MLive.com

Whitecaps roll over Great Lakes

Fifth -Third Ballpark-Compstock Park, MI: In another chapter in the in-state rivalry of the West Michigan Whitecaps and the Great Lakes Loons, the ‘Caps were able to stay hot and take the home series three games to four. Game one was showcased by West Michigan pitcher Jeff Ferrell, who stayed as hot as the August sun this month. He threw 6 2/3 innings, giving up only two hits and striking out four, and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Ferrell is 3-0 this month with a 0.74 ERA in his last four starts, as has already been named Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for his efforts earlier this month.

“I’m just trying to keep the ball down and mix up my pitches the best I can.” Ferrell told the Grand Rapids Press. “All of my pitches have been working for me this month, and that has been a big part of my success right there.”

He got some run support early, on a solo home run by Lance Durham. Jeff McVaney would hit a three-run shot in the sixth innings, propelling the ‘Caps to a 4-1 win. Brandon Loy had two hits in the game for West Michigan also. Will Clinard preserved the win in relief, striking out two batters with the bases loaded to earn the save.

In game two of the series, the Whitecaps were down 5-0 early, but battled back to within one, 5-4, before the rain hit. The hour and a half rain delay seemed to wash away all of the ‘Caps momentum, and the over-worked bullpen got hit hard when play resumed. In the 13-4 loss, West Michigan gave up a season high runs, hits (19), and four relief pitchers combined to allow nine runs and 14 hits in six innings. Starter Wilsen Palacios took the mound for his first start in ten days, but couldn’t make it out of the third innings. The ‘Caps were only able to connect for six hits, with Jason Krizan going 2-3. Eugenio Suarez hit a two-run double in the fifth inning, and Jason King hit one over the wall in the fourth.

Game three of the series saw the Whitecaps only get five hits, but they made the most of them, scoring all of their runs with two outs in a 5-2 comeback win over the Loons.

“That was key,” ‘Caps manger Ernie Young told the Grand Rapids Press. “Any time you can score with two outs, it is going to benefit your ball club. I would like to get some one-out runs, but today was outstanding. Even though we got behind early, I thought we did a good job of making their pitcher throw some pitches that inning and we were able to capitalize. It is always good for your confidence when you can come back and win a ball game after losing the day before.”

Down 2-0, the ‘Caps started their comeback in the third inning on a single by Aaron Westlake, an RBI double by McVaney, and two-run single by King. In the fourth inning, Westlake struck again with a RBI single to make it 5-2. On the hill, starter Tommy Collier tossed three innings giving up the two runs. Relief pitchers Brennan Smith and Jade Todd kept Great Lakes off the scorecard the rest of the game.

The series finale was the most dramatic game of them all, believe it or not. The game went back-and-forth with neither team being able to pull away. Things looked good for the ‘Caps in the seventh inning, when Westlake tied the game on a deep home run. The Loons answered, though, when Tyler Ogle hit his first home run of the season to help his team re-take the lead. Westlake was 2 for 4 in the game with two RBI’s, but his ninth inning walk would prove crucial. Set the stage for Jeff McVaney, who’s two run blast sent the Whitecaps and their fans into a frenzy, giving them the 6-5 walk-off win.

“I don’t think there is a better way you can win a ball game than a walk-off home run,” McVaney told the Grand Rapids Press. “I knew the situation, and I knew we had to get that run in. I thought about driving the ball to center field, and I definitely had home run in the back of my mind. I was trying to swing extra hard. Both teams came up with clutch hits and clutch pitches. It was good for our team, especially when we are trying to win every game to get into the playoffs. It was definitely a good moral boost to have a win like that.”

McVaney ended the game going 3-5 with two singles and the homer. On the mound, starter Kyle Ryan had his best recent outing. He gave up only one run on three hits in his five innings pitched. Will Clinard would earn the win, despite giving up the go-ahead run in the ninth. The Whitecaps now lead the season series with the Loons 12 games to 7. This season’s end is rapidly approaching, and we’re hoping to make one more game before it ends!

Photos courtesy of Sally Finneran/Grand Rapids Press/MLive.com

The Unconditional Release of Brandon Inge

Well, I’ve had a few days to mull this over…after the inevitable happened to (former) Tigers‘ third baseman and mainstay, Brandon Inge. I really don’t think any other player has had this love/hate relationship with fans as he does. Detroit faithful either love him, or call for his head on a platter. Very few seem to be in between. From a business standpoint, the Tigers organization had to do this, and with the majority of the fans leaning toward the ‘hate’ side, it was the right time. I give the Tigers credit, though, as they really gave him every chance this season to play and be effective. After going 2-20 (.100), it was apparent that he just wasn’t going to be the hitter he was during is All-Star year in 2009. In fact, he hasn’t done much since then. I also think that the Tigers are giving him a chance by releasing him. Giving him a chance to maybe catch lighting in a bottle somewhere else, and if that doesn’t happen, then he’ll be welcomed back into the organization in some capacity. I wrote a post back in February on why he’d make a fine Minor League coach, and would probably be in Toledo or West Michigan do to their proximity to Detroit, where Inge and his family live year round. That can be found here: http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com/2012/02/12/the-future-of-brandon-inge/

Now, it looks like he’ll get his chance as a member other of the Oakland Athletics, who reportedly signed him yesterday. He’ll be patrolling third base as usual, ironically replacing former Tiger and Whitecap Scott Sizemore, who is out for the season with a torn knee ligament. If things don’t work out for him playing ‘moneyball’ on Oakland, I’m still believe that Tigers’ owner Mike Illitch will find a place for him in the organization somewhere. He’s a great owner, who is very loyal to players loyal to his teams. And Inge is the longest tenured Tiger since Alan Trammel and Lou Whitaker

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

A streaky season so far

After being swept at home by the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the West Michigan Whitecaps came back with two impressive wins over the Beloit Snappers, but were unable to complete the sweep. The ‘Caps suffered their worse loss of the season, by the score of 8-0. They had their chances, but have not been very good at the plate with runners in scoring position. With the bases loaded in the sixth inning, they came away with no runs due to a called third strike. Dean Green and Patrick Leyland each had two hits in the game, though. The team has been getting hits, but not the ones that count…the ones that drive in the runs and win games. During the current home stand, the Whitecaps had eight to ten hits in each game, but they left approximately nine runners on base in four of those. With runners in scoring position, the team was 11 for 59. Ouch.

The Whitecaps are now 9-10, not horrible, but it’s been a season of streaks so far. Already in 2012, they’ve had two three-game winning streaks and one three-game losing streak. If they could have pulled out a victory yesterday, it would have made for three consecutive sweeps in the last three series, with the ‘Caps sweeping Lake County, being swept by Wisconsin, and taking the first two from Beloit. Manager Ernie Young still have confidence in his young team, though.

“We had opportunities…sometimes you just have to find a way to get that big hit,” Young told the Grand Rapids Press. “The timely hits will come. The guys just have to get up there and see it happen and it will. Two wins in six game? Yeah. Tough. It would have been nice to go ahead and get that last one a salvage a home stand with a split, but we’re going to be fine. We have a lot of games left. No time to panic. There’s no panic from me and none on staff members.”

The Whitecaps are getting some good production from guys like Steven Moya (.400 average), Green (.268, 5 home runs), and Brandon Loy (.300), but are getting little help from the lead-off position, as well as the bottom part of the line-up. Today is their first day off since April 8, and then it’s off to Quad Cities for a seven game road trip.

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

‘Caps win home opener

After being shut out on Opening Day by the Dayton Dragons, the West Michigan Whitecaps earned a bit of retribution by shutting out the Bowling Green Hot Rods 4-0 in their home opener. The ‘Caps got the offense going early, getting RBI singles from Brandon Loy and Steve Moya in the first inning. They added two more runs in the sixth inning, one off a home run from Dean Green. The other run came from another RBI single by Moya. Aaron Westlake added two doubles for West Michigan. For Green, this was his second home run of the season, and manager Ernie Young is taking notice.

“He’s a big hitter,” Young told the Grand Rapids Press. “He’s someone who this organization hasn’t seen in a few years.”

Young also praised starting pitcher Brennan Smith, who threw five shutout innings for this win. He only allowed four hits, no walks, and had a pair of strikeouts. He was limited to 79 pitches on the night.

“He pitched a great game. He competed well, and hopefully next time he goes six innings,” stated Young. “Coming out of spring training, these guys are on a low pitch count and we have to take care of their arms.”

The bullpen got the job done for the Whitecaps, too. Ryan Wooley gave up only one hit in two innings, while Michael Torrealba and Daniel Bennett pitched one inning each without giving up a hit. The Whitecaps host Bowling Green tomorrow night, and then we’ll be at the game on Wednesday at noon. I am sooo ready for live baseball, and the kids are pumped!!!

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Opening Day preperations

Opening Day of the 2012 baseball season is finally here in West Michigan. A lot more goes into this event, and every other game for that matter, than the coaches strategies and the players batting practice. The grounds crew, vendors, and maintenance workers are tirelessly getting Fifth Third  Ballpark ready for the thousands of fans. This Miller Lite‘s for you….for all the workers who make it possible for us fans to enjoy the ballpark experience. We can’t make it tonight, but the kids and I will be there on Wednesday! The Whitecaps are 1-2 on the young season, beating Dayton Saturday night in 11 innings.

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

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