Results tagged ‘ Toledo Mud Hens ’

Q&A with former ‘Cap Castellanos

Well, Nick Castellanos has been mentioned on this blog about a billion times, so one more time probably won’t hurt anything. He did have a great season with the Toledo Mud Hens this past summer, that earned him a call up to the Detroit Tigers in September. Despite not making the playoff roster, many believe he has a great shot a being the Tigers’ everyday left fielder in 2014 (with the Tigers trading Prince Fielder, he looks to have a shot at starting at third base now). Also mentioned many times before, we had the luxury of watching him play for the West Michigan Whitecaps back in 2011, and he was nice enough to sign a baseball for Lily. So, here is another interview from MiLB.com, this one done by Sam Dykstra. Enjoy…

opening20day200091 MiLB.com: One of the big things coming into this season for you was the move to the outfield. How did you approach the position switch?

Castellanos: I think I approached it pretty well. They were trying to find a spot for me in the lineup with Prince [Fielder] signing and Miguel [Cabrera] moving over to third. I know I’m not going to be playing third base as long as Miguel is in the organization, so when they approached me to make the move, I knew it was just about trying to find a spot for me, and that was easy to take. It’s going to be my best path to the big leagues right now, and that’s a good thing. I do miss third base, though. Eventually at some point, I’d love to go back.

MiLB.com: How long did it take to you get to comfortable out there in left field?

Castellanos: It was difficult at the beginning, to be honest. I had never played outfield in my life before that. It’s not like I was trying to learn shortstop again, like I did in high school, or making a move over to second. I had never done that in my life, so it was a different feeling out there. I felt uncomfortable at the beginning, with the game being so far away.  But I have to give credit to our outfield coordinator, Gene Roof. He spent all day and all night with me trying to get everything down, and I feel much better out there.

MiLB.com: Another part of the transition was the move up to Triple-A Toledo. What was that like?

Castellanos: I had to mature a lot more up there, that’s for sure. You’re facing great pitchers, day in and day out. In Triple-A ball, every guy you’re facing has their approach down and knows exactly what they’ll do with you when you come up to the plate. Plus, the bullpens in Triple-A are just day-and-night better than the ones you’re facing at the lower levels. You just have to get a feel for some of the flamethrowers, make adjustments like anywhere else and be prepared for what you’ll see.

MiLB.com: That being said, you were able to handle Triple-A pitching fairly well. Why was that?

Castellanos: I think that just goes to my confidence at the plate. All I need are at-bats and a little bit of time, and things usually get around to where they need to be.

MiLB.com: Where does that confidence and your general hitting prowess come from?

Castellanos: Most of it is that I’m always working on hitting. I’ve been hitting all the time since I was little, since I started playing really. I’m always trying to learn about the game I love, and the only way I can do that is to keep working hard at it. With that, whether I’m 0-for-4 or 4-for-4 on a given day, I’m still having fun at the plate because I like it so much up there. That amount of fun contributes to my success a little. I don’t mind putting work in because I enjoy it that much.

MiLB.com: Because of that hitting ability, you were able to get a callup to the Tigers in September during their playoff run. Describe that experience.

Castellanos: Just because who I am, I wish I got to play more when I was there, but they were competing to finish first in the division and stuff, so that happens. I got to start four games, and I was pretty happy with the way I hit when I did start. But for me, playing off the bench is difficult, you know? When I come to the park, I’m ready to go and want to get out there. I got some pinch-hit at-bats in the seventh inning or later, so that was something I had to get used to — preparing starting in the sixth, being on call, stuff like that. But above all, it was about getting used to the Major League life — the plane rides, what time to get to the field, what to do in the pregame. It was a good learning experience for that stuff.

MiLB.com: One of the things about joining that Tigers team, too, is that it’s a squad that is heavy with veterans. Was there anyone you sought out in particular?

Castellanos: First, everybody in that locker room is such a great guy. It’s easy to come into as a rookie because of that. But one guy that’s super-knowledgeable and just a super guy overall is Torii [Hunter]. He makes himself so open and so approachabl,e not only to the veterans but to the rookies like myself, too, and that’s a big help.

MiLB.com: What did you talk to him about specifically?

Castellanos: Above all, they were mostly outfield questions. I’d watch him out there and then try to pick his brain about why did he go after a ball here and why did he go that way there. The thing about Torii is that he picks up pitches so well. So if I saw him do something that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, I tried to talk to him about it. Overall, he just makes the game fun. He’s been in the game for 17, going on 18 years, so it’s great he can share stuff with me.

MiLB.com: Besides Hunter, it must have been interesting to play with Miguel Cabrera, not only because of who he is, but because you’re a guy from the Miami area.

Castellanos: It is pretty wild. In ’03, I watched the World Series with him in it, and I was actually there when he went “oppo” against Clemens after he threw at him. I was idolizing Cabrera when I was little, and then the first run I scored in the Majors was driven in by Miguel. It’s cool how everything comes full circle like that. Being 10, 11 and watching him play and now I’m with him on the field. Beyond that too, Alex Fernandez — my coach in high school — won a World Series with Jim Leyland, and I played under him too. Just cool how that all happens.

MiLB.com: Speaking of Leyland, you got to play under him right before he retired. What was that like?

Castellanos: Leyland is very professional in everything he does. From a player’s perspective, he’s fun to watch and has been doing it for so long. I think someone said that he’s filled out something like 4,800 lineup cards in his career. Anyone with that much experience in baseball, you know you have to listen and respect what they do. I feel like I know so much about baseball already. But compared to Leyland, and beyond that, [bench coach Gene] Lamont and [former hitting coach and recently named Mariners manager Lloyd] McClendon? I don’t know anything. All I can do is watch them, learn and see how Jim would manage a game, even if that meant sitting there thinking, “Why would he do this?” Being around him, I was able to just add a lot of knowledge that wasn’t there.

MiLB.com: Leyland’s also known in baseball circles as a fairly colorful character. Got any good Leyland stories?

Castellanos: The biggest thing that comes to mind is one day [Sept. 4] we got beat pretty bad by the Red Sox. It was the day [David] Ortiz got his 2,000th hit, and we lost by a lot [20-4]. I went into the clubhouse thinking, “Man, if we’re in Toledo right now, we’re going to get chewed out.” And then he walks in and just says, “Well, tomorrow’s a great day for an off-day, huh?” And that was it. It was really loose and easy, and it was his way of telling us to pick up our heads and keep on pushing through because there were a lot of other big games coming up.

MiLB.com: After those big games were through, the Tigers moved onto the playoffs, but you were left off the postseason roster. How did you handle that?

Castellanos: It was pretty nerve-racking, knowing I couldn’t help or contribute in any way. All I could do is watch from my living room in Miami. There were even a couple of times I had to turn off the TV because I couldn’t watch anymore.

MiLB.com: Many see you as likely to be on the big league roster come Opening Day. How do you approach the offseason with that in mind?

Castellanos: Pretty much like any other offseason really. I don’t want to put any added pressure on myself. I just have to work hard and be ready come spring, just like I always have.

MiLB.com: If it does come down to it, that you are the starting left fielder for the Tigers on Opening Day, how ready do you feel for that opportunity?

Castellanos: Oh, 100 percent. With the instruction I’ve gotten from the people that have helped me in the outfield, I know I’m ready. I know I can help the team right now. It’s tremendously exciting to think about. Any time you play in the big leagues is a great opportunity, and I’m ready to do that every day.

MiLB.com: With all this being said, probably the biggest thing to happen to you this year was the birth of your first child. Does Liam have a bat in his hand yet?

Castellanos: No, he’s only three months so he hasn’t touched anything yet, but he does have a couple of gloves and a couple of bats with his name on them already. When he was born, that was better than the big leagues. My Major League debut was on Sept. 1, and my son was born Aug. 1. I was there when he was born, but on the morning of Aug. 3, I had fly back to Toledo and didn’t get to see him again until Sept. 1. When I did get that callup, all the reporters were asking me, “How did you feel about your Major League debut?” What I really wanted to say was I just want to spend time with my son.

It definitely puts your perspective on an 0-for-4 day, I’ll tell you that. Whether I’m 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, I still have a beautiful, healthy son that I care a lot about. To strike out with the bases loaded or make an error in the field, it doesn’t mean so much anymore.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

The Tigers’ organization All-Stars

This time of year, Minor League Baseball honors the players in each organization’s farm who had the best seasons. This season was a good one for the Detroit Tigers‘ minor leaguers, as many of them had some solid stats. I’ve always enjoyed following the players up through the system, especially the ones who played in West Michigan for the Whitecaps. I plan on making trips down to Toledo and Erie, along with my usual stops in Grand Rapids, so I’ll have a good chance to see most of these players next season. It looks like eight out of the 12 selected played for the Whitecaps at one point in their career.

Catcher-James McCann (Erie Seawolves): Suited up for nine games with West Michigan in 2009. This season with Erie, he hit .277, with 30 doubles, eight home runs, and 54 RBI’s. His BA, doubles, along with 178 total bases and 50 runs scored, lead all catchers in the system. Behind the plate he threw out 28 of 76 base runners (1/3), and had a .991 fielding percentage.

Lennerton with the 'Caps in 2009.

Lennerton with the ‘Caps in 2009.

First Base-Jordan Lennerton (Toledo Mud Hens): Played for the Whitecaps during the 2009-10 seasons. This season with Toledo, he lead all first basemen with 17 home runs and 143 hits. He placed second in the Tigers organization with 84 walks, fourth with 57 RBI’s, and fourth with 221 total bases.

Devon Travis had one of the best minor league seasons I can remember.

Devon Travis had one of the best minor league seasons I can remember.

Second Base-Devon Travis (West Michigan Whitecaps/Lakeland Flying Tigers): Played most of the season in West Michigan before being promoted to Lakeland. Travis was the Midwest League All-Star Game MVP, the Tigers’ Minor League Player of the Year, and won two MiLBY Awards for Breakout Prospect and Offensive Player. He hit .351 across both leagues, and lead all middle infielders with 16 home runs and 76 RBI’s. He was also successful in 22 out of 26 base stealing attempts.

swn81Third Base-Wade Gaynor (Erie Seawolves): Played for the ‘Caps during the 2010 season. This season with Erie, he lead all players at the hot corner with 108 hits, 179 total bases, 64 RBI’s, 31 doubles, and 12 stolen bases. He also contributed 12 homers and 45 extra-base hits.

suarez1Shortstop-Eugenio Suarez (Erie Seawolves/Lakeland Flying Tigers): Won a Gold Glove last season with the Whitecaps, as the best defensive shortstop in the minors, and a Midwest League All-Star. In 2013 with Lakeland and Erie, he hit .264, added 10 home runs (career high), 57 RBI’s across both levels. He led all Tiger shortstops with six triples and 70 runs scored.

Outfield-Danny Dorn (Toledo Mud Hens): Dorn led all Tigers’ minor leaguers with 25 home runs and 82 RBI’s. He ranked second in the system with 228 total bases, also. He was signed by Detroit as a free-agent in 2012.

Outfield-Tyler Collins (Erie Seawolves): Skipped over the Whitecaps, moving up to Lakeland from Connecticut. He ranked second in the system with 21 home runs and 79 RBI’s, hitting .240, with 29 doubles, and 67 runs scored.

opening20day200091Outfield-Nick Castellanos (Toledo Mud Hens): Played with the Whitecaps in 2011. Was called up to the big team for 11 games this season, but with Toledo he hit 18 homers and 76 RBI’s. He also led all outfielders with 240 total bases and 81 runs scored. His biggest improvement, was cutting down on strikeouts, and drawing more walks this season (54). I’d like to see him starting for Detroit next season in left field.

Utility Player-Daniel Fields (Erie Seawolves): The Michigan native hit .284 for Erie this season, hitting 43 extra-base hits including 10 home runs. He added 58 RBI’s, 24 stolen bases, and 71 runs scored.

Starter/RHP-Wilsen Palacios (Lakeland Flying Tigers): Played for the Whitecaps last season. In 2013 with Lakeland, he posted a 3.07 ERA and struck out 109. He held opponents to a .238 batting average and 1.23 WHIP. Had a 7-8 record in 23 starts, including a complete game. He’s currently pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Starter/LHP-Kyle Lobstein (Erie Seawolves/Toledo Mud Hens): Playing 15 games with the ‘Wolves and 13 with the Hens, he went 13-7 this season. He led all pitchers in wins and with 148 strikeouts. across both leagues, he boasted a 3.27 ERA.

monkey9Relief Pitcher-Corey Knebel (West Michigan Whitecaps): Played for the Whitecaps this season, after finishing his collegiate career at the University of Texas. He had 15 saves in half a season for the ‘Caps, good for fourth in the system. Had an impressive 41-to-10 strikeout to walk ratio, and held opponents to a .133 average, and had an ERA of 0.87.

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

Gold Gloves for former Whitecaps

swn81Yesterday Minor League Baseball and Rawling Sporting Goods released the names of the nine players chosen to receive Gold Gloves for defensive excellence at their position. Three out of the nine happen to be Detroit Tigers prospects and former West Michigan Whitecaps. The 2013 Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners were chosen from all the qualifying players from the ten domestic-based, full season Minor Leagues. Each player will receive his own Rawlings Gold Glove Award, modeled after the iconic award given to MLB’s top defensive players. Taking home the award at first base is Jordan Lennerton, who played with the Toledo Mud Hens in 2013. He posted an impressive .996 fielding percentage, with 1, 167 put outs, and five errors. Lennerton played two seasons in West Michigan, hitting .282 with 71 RBI’s, and a .996 fielding percentage in 2009. In 2010, he hit .290 with a .993 fielding percentage. Covering the hot-corner is Wade Gaynor. He had a .967 fielding percentage, with 95 put-outs, 227 assists, and 11 errors playing third base for the Erie Sea Wolves. We were lucky enough to meet Wade (pictured above) back in 2010 when he was with the Whitecaps. He hit .286 with 39 doubles, 80 RBI’s, and a .927 fielding percentage that year. Earning the honor in left field is Jason Krizan, who just played for the Whitecaps the last two seasons, where he hit .242 with 59 RBI’s, and a .980 fielding percentage combined. This season with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, he had a .995 fielding percentage, 175 put-outs, and only one error in the outfield. Congratulations to all three players. It was fun watching them in West Michigan, and I’ve been enjoying tracking their progress through the Tigers’ system.

“I know what an honor it is for a player to receive a Rawlings Gold Glove Award, having been involved in presenting them to the winners the last two years,” stated President and CEO of Minor League Baseball, Pat O’Conner. “The players really appreciate and understand how prestigious the accolade is and I want to thank Rawlings Sporting Goods for their continued support of Minor League Baseball.”

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Parrish takes over Mud Hens

parrish5For 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.

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Whitecaps alumni update

opening20day200091Castellanos gets the call: After toiling in the Minors the last few seasons, top Tigers’  prospect Nick Castellanos finally got the call to the big club yesterday. He came into the game to play left field, and went 0-2 at the plate. No worries, though, as none of the Tigers’ bats were working in a 4-0 loss to Cleveland. He was doing fine at the dish in Toledo, however, hitting .276 with 18 home runs and 76 RBI’s for the Triple-A affiliate. Castellanos was drafted by Detroit as a third-baseman in 2010, but was moved to the outfield in 2012.

“I could hit .900 with 100 home runs and I still was not going to play third base in Detroit”, he stated to the AP. But he did look at the move as a positive one and a “very good thing” because “they saw me moving here in the future.” He also stated about the position change: “I was new to everything. I was new to reads off the bat, line drives that stay true and line drives that have topspin down. I was pretty rough with having wall awareness.”  He also credits Gene Roof, Detroit’s roving minor league outfield and base running coordinator for taking the time to work with him. “Without him, I wouldn’t be in this locker room.”

Castellanos played for the West Michigan Whitecaps during the 2011 season, when he was just 19 years-old. He hit .312, with 36 doubles, seven home runs, and 76 RBI’s. Now, at the ripe ol’ age of 21, he’s being brought up to the bigs in the mist of a playoff race.

“I’m extremely fortunate to be able, first of all, to get call up, and second of all to be called up in a situation like this, where we’re playing for something,” he stated. “So I’m just going to take everything in, I’m going to learn as much as I can, and I’m going to enjoy the ride because it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

We wish the best of luck to Castellanos, who’s pictured above with Lily. If he makes it big, that baseball he signed for her will be something to treasure!

TravisMVPTravis named MWL post-season All-Star: Former Whitecaps’ second baseman Devon Travis, who was call up to the Lakeland Flying Tigers in July, has been named to the Midwest League post-season All-Star team for 2013. Only one player for each position is chosen, so it’s an honor to be picked as that one best player. He’s earned it, too, hitting .352, with 17 doubles, six home runs, 42 RBI’s, and 14 stolen bases, in only 77 games. Before being promoted to Class-A Advanced Florida State League, he was leading the MWL with 102 hits, games played, and a .982 fielding percentage. He also participated in the Midwest League All-Star game in June, being named the MVP after hitting a three-run triple while going 2-2.  Travis is also the owner of the longest hitting streak in Whitecaps history, by hitting safely in 21 consecutive game from April 21-May 12. I was happy I could watch Travis play before his promotion, and we’ll be following him as he moves up in the system. The only other player from a Michigan based team to be named to the All-Star team was relief pitcher Geoff Brown, with the Great Lakes Loons. The Loons are also the only team to make the playoffs, so we’ll be keeping track of their bid for the championship, also. If they can just hold secure a home game for next weekend….

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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

Castellanos moves up on Prospect list

opening20day200091For 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.

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Lennerton to play in All-Star Futures Game

From deep in the M.I.B. archives. Jordan Lennerton with the Whitecaps back in 2009.

From deep in the M.I.B. archives. Jordan Lennerton with the Whitecaps back in 2009.

Detroit Tiger prospect, and former West Michigan Whitecap, Jordan Lennerton was named to the All-Star Futures World team. The first baseman leads the Triple-A Toledo MudHens in batting average at .311,  and on-base percentage at .416. In the last 54 games, he’s batting .332 with seven doubles, nine homers, and 21 RBI’s. Last season, Lennerton led the Double-A Erie Sea Wolves with 34 doubles, 21 home runs, and 82 RBI’s. In 2009 with the Whitecaps, he hit .282 with 12 home runs and 71 RBI’s. He split the 2010 season between West Michigan and Lakeland, but hit .290 with three home runs and 23 RBI’s in 59 games with the ‘Caps. He was named the Midwest League Player of the Week on 06/01/10. Lennerton was drafted by Detroit in the 33rd round of the 2008 draft, after completing his collegiate career at Oregon State. Lennerton was named to the World roster due to the fact he’s from British Columbia, Canada, eh. At this point he’s the only Tigers representative to the Futures Game, but may be joined by Toledo teammate Nick Castellanos. Fans can vote for the final roster spots, and Castellanos is one of the finalists. You can vote for him HERE. He was the MVP of last years Futures Game after getting three hits, scoring three runs, and three RBI’s. Fellow Detroit prospects Bruce Rondon and Rob Brantley joined him in last season’s game, also.

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Hens fan goes nuts for Inge

indyingeIt was just another day at the ballpark for this Mud Hens fan. Sit back, have a few beers, throw peanuts at former Tiger Brandon Inge…wait, what? Yes, fans do heckle players at the games, especially at the minor league games where the fans are so close to the action. Last night, however, one fan took things a little too far and began belittling Inge, and even started throwing peanuts at him. Inge, who signed with the Pirates this spring, was playing for the Indianapolis Indians on a rehab assignment against the Mud Hens in Toledo.

“It was just an agitate fan that took it a little too far”, Inge told The Toledo Blade. “That stuff is unfortunate. You can’t avoid it. There’s always going to be a couple of idiots at every game. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can handle it the best you can, and I think we did.”

When the fans assaults became unbearable, Inge’s teammates were quick to defend him. Pirate prospect Jerry Sands and Felix Pie had to be restrained from going after the unruly fan. Sands actually cleared the fence between the stands and dugout, an action that brought a one game suspension from the International League. The fan was escorted out of the ballpark, but still tried throwing beer at the players on their way out (alcohol abuse?). Inge did his best to continue the game, and make it enjoyable for the remaining fans, especially the kids in attendance. He handed out more than a half-dozen baseball to kids.

“Everything was handled very professionally,” Inge stated. “The Mud Hens handled it professionally and I think we handled it as professionally as we could.” Uh, except for Sands, though, Brandon? He did take care of the kids, though: “I know the face of a kid that’s scared. And that man was definitely scaring those kids around the area. I actually saw a couple of kids sitting by themselves, I’m sure their parents were nearby, and I saw them actually get up and move a couple of seats back. They were just like, ‘Wow, we need to move,’. I didn’t want them to feel like that. So I pulled them over and gave them some baseballs. It turned to be, I think, ok.”

None of the Mud Hens players were involved. The Detroit fans have always had a love/hate relationship with Inge, though. Personally I’ve never had a problem with him. He always worked hard and wanted to contribute the best he could. He’s also recently stated he’d like to come back to the Tigers organization when his playing days are done. This is prediction I’ve made many times, however.

“I’d probably, one day, like to stay part of that organization in some way,” Inge stated to the Detroit News. ” One thing I learned through the years in this game is reading people. It’s why I respect Al Kaline so much. He’s still helping the Tigers in so many ways. But what impresses me is that he’s such a great personality reader.” He also stated to the News, “Detroit is home for me. It’s not something you experience for as long as I did and not call it home. In my mind, I’ll always be a Tiger.”

There you have it, folks…. Any way you slice it, though, the fan was in the wrong, and I’m glad he got tossed without anyone getting hurt. Best of luck in your rehab, Brandon.

Photo courtesy of the Detroit News

Let The Games Begin

12519972-standardThe start of the new Minor League Baseball season is upon us, with the first pitch due to be thrown out at hundreds of ballparks today. As with a new season, comes many new stories for every team. As is such with the West Michigan Whitecaps, as they welcome a new manager this season, along with some returning players. Fans of the West Michigan team were able to watch them practice yesterday, and then had a chance for pictures and autographs. It was a cold, but sunny, day just north of Grand Rapids, but many fans attended the open workout.

Michael Hernandez played for the Whitecaps in 2006, helping them to the Midwest League Championship

Michael Hernandez played for the Whitecaps in 2006, helping them to the Midwest League Championship

One positive story, is how Michael Hernandez worked his way back into the Detroit Tigers’ organization. The 29-year-old Brooklyn native played for the Whitecaps back in 2006, helping them win the Midwest League Championship. In his first tour of duty, he made the team as an un-drafted free agent from Oklahoma State. After being traded away to Texas, and spending four years in the Independent Atlantic League, Hernandez finds himself once again patrolling the outfield at Fifth-Third Ballpark.

“I feel blessed just to be here, to get this opportunity to tell you the truth”, Hernandez told MLive.com. “I knew it would be tough, and it went really well in spring training. They asked me if I’d be willing to go Low-A until maybe something opens up, and I said 100 percent. If I’m here, I have a chance. I’m willing to take that. I know they wanted to put in a guy with some experience to help anchor the outfield, especially with a couple of young guys we have. I want to be known as a veteran guy here, and I want to help out as much as I can while I’m here. Hopefully they’ll learn something from me and I can learn from them.”

That’s a great attitude by Hernandez, and I hope he has a great season, as he wants to move up the ladder to Double-A or Triple-A. He has good power with his bat, and can captain the outfield. In 2006 with the ‘Caps, he hit .278, with 13 home runs, 63 RBI’s, and hit for the cycle twice. Last season, playing for the York Revolution, he hit .303, with 13 home runs, and 55 RBI’s. He asked the Tigers organization for an invitation to spring training, and they granted it for him. It’s a good chance that with his locker room presence and a veteran skipper, the Whitecaps can go a long way.

Larry Parrish, who has managed the Detroit Tigers and Toledo Mud Hens, is at the helm for the Whitecaps this season

Larry Parrish, who has managed the Detroit Tigers and Toledo Mud Hens, is at the helm for the Whitecaps this season

Speaking of the veteran skipper, Larry Parrish may be in his first season as the Whitecaps manager, but his resume’ is extremely impressive. He has even managed the big club, back in 1998-99, and the Toledo Mud Hens in 1994, 2003-06, and 2008-10. He left the Hens with a record of 569-551, and two Governor’s Cup championships. Before the circus of the new season begins, Parrish chatted with Peter Wallner of MLive.com about a few issues with the Whitecaps

Here are five notable things Parrish had to say about the team:

What to expect from Briceno in the opener. Endrys Briceno, in his first full season as a pro after back-to-back seasons with 12 starts each in short-season A, drew the starting nod.

Parrish has been impressed.

“He’s a long, lanky guy, and it’s all a matter of location with him,” Parrish said. “He has pretty strong movement to his fastball, and his breaking ball can be inconsistent at times, but Mike (pitching coach Mike Henneman) has been working with him on gripping it a little tighter.”

Briceno went 4-3 with 60 hits in 58 innings with 30 strikeouts and 22 walks.

A second baseman to love. Devon Travis won fans over in Connecticut last season with his gritty play, and Parrish expects West Michigan fans will think the same.

“I could see him becoming a fan favorite,” Parrish said. “He’s not a big guy, but he has strength and some pop in his bat, too.”

Travis, who’s listed a 5-9 and 183 pounds, was a 13th-round pick of Detroit in 2012, leaving Florida State after his junior season. He hit .283 (.352 OBP) in 25 games with Connecticut.

Living with the talent. Austin Schotts and Danry Vasquez are ranked as the fifth and sixth best prospects in the Tigers’ organization and will be patrolling the Whitecaps’ outfield this season – Schotts in center and Vasquez in right. That will bring highlights, and test patience, too.

“There’s going to be some really good days and then some days where they look young,” Parrish said.

The two will be closely watched as the best prospects. Vasquez, who played in 29 games at West Michigan before going down to Connecticut, will gain power as he adds weight (currently 177 pounds) to his 6-3 frame. Schotts, the highest pick on the team (third round last season), is known for his speed. He hit .310 with 15 stolen bases in 40 games last season in the Gulf Coast League.

Adolfo Reina will be key to the pitching staff. The thing is, Reina isn’t even a pitcher, but a 23-year-old catcher.

“With all the Latin pitchers we have, Reina could be a real stabilizer for us,” Parrish said. “We expect him to really be able to work with the staff.”

Reina, in the organization since 2008, played most of last season at Lakeland, though he did get into one game at Triple-A Toledo – and homered. He has the experience, Parrish said, to help youngsters such as Endrys Briceno, as well as other Latin pitchers such as starter Edgar De La Rosa and starter/reliever Yorfrank Lopez.

Of all the starters, keep a close eye on Hudson Randall. The right-hander, projected to be the third starter in the rotation, is a 6-4, 185-pounder who was drafted in the seventh round last year after a stellar career at University of Florida.

“If I had to bet on a pitcher to watch, it would be Hudson,” Parrish said. “He was the most consistent pitcher (during spring training), he has some big-game experience (with the Gators) and he has a bunch of pitches that he can throw well.”

Randall, 22, has curve, slider and change-up to go with his fastball

12519957-standardThe Whitecaps open the season with a seven game stint hosting the Dayton Dragons and Fort Wayne TinCaps. Here’s to another fun season of baseball for all, and at this point I’m really happy just that there’s no snow on the field!

12519960-standardPhotos courtesy of Sally Finneran/MLive.com

A Piece of The Game

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