Results tagged ‘ Toledo Mud Hens ’

And Another Returns

Michael Hernandez with the Whitecaps back in 2006

Michael Hernandez with the Whitecaps back in 2006

The Detroit Tigers organization recently re-acquired Gustavo Nunez, now they have re-signed West Michigan Whitecaps alum Michael Hernandez to a minor league deal. An outfielder, Hernandez played for the ‘Caps in 2006, then split time in Lakeland and Erie in 2007. While in West Michigan, he hit a solid .278, with 13 home runs and 63 RBI’s. He was a two-time Midwest League Player of the Week, as well as being an All-Star in the Florida State League. He was traded to the Texas Rangers after the 2007 season, in the deal that brought Armando Galarraga to Detroit. He was released by Texas, spent a couple of years in the Mets system, and recently has been honing his skills in the Atlantic League. The Tigers have also signed right-handed pitcher Michael Dubee to a minor league deal. Pitching out of the bullpen the last few seasons, Dubee was 4-4 last season, with a 4.07 ERA. He also had 53 strike-outs between the Yankees and Blue Jays Double-A affiliates. Both players were signed simply to add depth the organization, but I hope they both have solid seasons.

Photo courtesy of MotownSports.com

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The return of Nunez

Nunez hit .315 playing for the Whitecaps in 2009

Nunez hit .315 playing for the Whitecaps in 2009

West Michigan Whitecaps alum Gustavo Nunez has returned to the Detroit Tigers in strange turn of events. The 24 year-old short stop was taken by the Pittsburg Pirates in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December of 2011. He was then claimed off waivers by the Arizona Diamondback in October, and is now back in the Tigers organization as the D-Backs have outrighted his contract to the Toledo Mud Hens. He spent the 2012 season on the disabled list for the Pirates, recovering from surgery to his right ankle. As part of re-hab, he did play twelve games between the Gulf Coast League Pirates, Single-A Bradenton Marauders, and the Double-A Altoona Curve, hitting a combined .273. Nunez had a solid year with the Whitecaps in 2009. Playing in 112 games, he hit .315, with 16 doubles, 10 triples, and five home runs. The Tigers needed some depth at middle infield in the system, so I’m glad to see him back, and hope he has a great year in Toledo.

Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps

Rondon closing in on Detroit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of MLive.com

Fields back as Minor League hitting coordinator

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Jim Hill

Whitecaps Alumni play in WBC qualifiers

Ben Guez with the Whitecaps back in 2009. He represented Team Isreal in the WBC qualifier.

Three former West Michigan players cut their teeth on international competition recently. Ben Guez, who played with the ‘Caps in 2009, was invited to play for Team Isreal by former Tiger Brad Ausmus. Guez qualifies because his dad and both grandparents are jewish, though he was born and raised in Houston.

“I said ‘sure, why not,’” Guez stated. “I was going to tame some time off before I got married in October, so I had a full schedule. But it seemed like a good opportunity. It was really cool, to be able to play in something like the WBC and travel around the world and maybe play in San Fransisco was great. I love to play baseball. It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid and this would have been something different.”

Guez hit .167 for Isreal, who almost qualified before losing a 9-7 heartbreaker to Spain in the championship game. He split time between the Toledo Mud Hens and the Erie Seadogs this past season, going .289 with 24 doubles and 48 RBI’s between the two teams.

Playing for Team Canada are both catcher Chris Robinson and first baseman Jordan Lennerton. Robinson played for the Whitecaps in 2005, while Lennerton played in 2009 and 2010. Canada advanced by outscoring it’s opponents by a combined score of 38-9. Lennerton feels that playing in the minors and representing your country are very different.

“There is definitely a different kids of pressure”, Lennerton stated. “In the minor leagues it’s all about numbers and development. You’re playing for yourself, even though you want to win. The goal for the WBC is to win. It’s all about right now. Whenever you get the chance to play for your country you do it. I would always drop what I’m doing to play.”

Lennerton, a native of British Columbia, had a solid season at Double-A Erie, hitting .269 with 34 doubles, 21 home runs, and 82 RBI’s. I will be difficult for both he and Robinson to crack the Canada line-up next March, though, when the Major Leaguers are added to the roster, though. Good luck to all of these guys, and I hope they get their chance to play.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Former Tigers, Mud Hens, skipper Larry Parrish to manage Whitecaps

The 2013 baseball season is starting to look a little brighter for us Whitecaps fans, as Larry Parrish was officially assigned to manage the team yesterday. It seems his managing career is coming full circle, though, after managing in the bigs and at the Triple-A level, he’s back in Class A baseball where he started. Parrish’s last job was the hitting coach for the Atlanta Braves, but took off the 2012 season after he was let go in 2011. Lucky he was still available when the Tigers organization called with the West Michigan job offer.

“The Tigers called to give me an opportunity and, for me, I really enjoy the minor leagues and the teaching aspect of it,” Parrish stated in a press release. “I talked to a couple of other clubs, but I’m comfortable with the Tigers. I was with the organization for a long time and was treated well, so it was a feeling coming back to work with your family.”

Parrish started his career with the Tigers organization back in 1992, taking the helm of the Class-A SS Niagara Falls Rapids, leading the team to a NY-Penn League championship. He worked as a roving minor league hitting instructor for three seasons before being assigned to the Double-A Jacksonville Suns in 1996. He also took the Suns to a Southern League championship. A year later, he was in the bigs, as the bench coach in Detroit. He took over the reigns as manager half-way though the 1998 season after Buddy Bell was relieved of duty. He had the privilege of managing the Tigers in their last year in historic Tigers Stadium in 1999, also. He also worked as a scout for the Tigers until he took over as manager of their Triple-A affiliate Toledo Mud Hens in 2003. He was named Minor League Manager of the Year in 2005 by the Sporting News after leading the Hens to the International League championship, a feat he repeated in 2006. Parrish named that Governor’s Cup championship is his favorite coaching achievement, also.

“I would think winning the championship in Toledo after they hadn’t won it in like 40 years. That was neat for the people there and to be a part of it. It’s always nice to win, ” he stated, but also recognizes the differences between the Triple-A and Class-A levels. “There you have guys who’ve either played in the big leagues a little bit or have gone though the system. At the A-ball level, you have to have more patience. They’re going to have some great games and they’re going to have games where you go ‘Oh, Lord’. But that’s part of it. But, to me, being able to coach and hopefully teach will have an impact. Experience-wise, having played and coached in the big leagues, I know what it takes to have to play at that level. That’s the whole idea.”

Parrish has visited the Grand Rapids area in the past after surgery in 2007 and was doing some roving instruction. He was very impressed with the stadium and fan support of the Whitecaps. The Tigers director of minor league operations is very pleased with their selection, also. As far as the rest of the Whitecaps staff goes, hitting coach Scott Dwyer will return next season, while pitching coach Mark Johnson will be assigned to Class-A SS Connecticut. As a player, Parrish was a two-time Major League All-Star in 1979 and ’87. He had a career batting average of .263 with 256 homers and 992 RBI’s. He played in Montreal, Texas, and Boston, before ending his pro career with two seasons in Japan.

Parrish chatting it up with Tigers manager Jim Leyland in 2008 when he was managing the Mud Hens

I know the Tigers are in the playoffs, which is very exciting, but having a guy with this kind of resume’ taking over has me excited for next season. Hopefully this will not only mean possibly more championships in West Michigan, but better prepared players working their way up to Detroit.

Top photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps

Bottom photos courtesy of the Associated Press

Whitecaps Alumni Justin Henry Honored

Former West Michigan Whitecaps second baseman, and current Toledo Mud Hens outfielder Justin Henry has been named the International League’s ‘Batter of the Week’ for August 20-26. Hitting in the lead-off position for the Mud Hens, Henry had 14 hits last week with a .538 batting average. He collected hits in five different games in a Toledo five-game win streak. Henry had three consecutive three-hit games during his hot streak, with four games with at least one run scored. He was second in the IL with a .581 on-base percentage after collecting four walks, and adding a pair of stolen bases. Justin is now third in the IL with 135 hits this season. While with the Whitecaps in 2008, he hit .295 with 24 doubles and one home run. Henry was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the ninth round of the 2007 draft. I’m not sure why the Tigers would turn him into an outfielder, with so many in the system, and not having too many infielders. I’d like to see Justin get the call this weekend, but my gut feeling is that Detroit will go with Avisail Garcia from Erie. All the best to him, though!

Photo property of  Minoring In Baseball

Fox Sports Detroit Girls get Muddy

Fifth-Third Field-Toledo, OH: Last Saturday the Fox Sports Detroit Girls blessed Fifth-Third Field in Toledo with their presence (not to be confused with Fifth-Third Field in Dayton, Fifth-Third Ballpark by Grand Rapids, or Fifth-Third Bank Ballpark in Kane Country….my god…). The Girls were on hand to help root on the Detroit Tigers Triple-A affiliate and help support the military, who was being honored all week by the Mud Hens. It’s a pretty fair drive from the Canadian border straight down to Toledo, but if I would have known that the Girls were going to be there, we would have tried to make plans! My window of opportunity for the kids and I too meet them is running out quickly, with the Minor League regular season ending in less than a week. My only hope now is for the baseball Gods to smile upon me, with Lauren and Allison magically appearing at the West Michigan Whitecaps game this Sunday…our last outing of the 2012 campaign. My only other chance for removing the Fox Sports Detroit Girls from my baseball bucket list is if they make it to a Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL hockey) game this winter. The Girls were a lucky charm, too, as the Mud Hens beat the Louiville Bats 5-1.

Photos courtesy of the Fox Sports Detroit Girls/Fox Sports Detroit/Fox Sports Net

Brantly gets the call to Miami

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

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

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

Top photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Bottom photo courtesy of the Miami Marlins

 

Whitecaps Update: It’s all in the cards

Fifth-Third Ballparks’ outfield during the ‘Aces in the Outfield’ promotion

The Standings: The West Michigan Whitecaps are still treading water in the Midwest League Eastern Division, but are sinking a bit. They are currently 21-22 in the second half, and are six games out of first place. They hit a little speed bump with a five-game losing streak, but have bounced back and won two games in a row from the talented Lansing LugNuts, 7-1 and 6-3, who ran away with the first half title. Manager Ernie Young, though,  will have to have some Aces up his sleeve, if the ‘Caps are going to capture a playoff spot this season…

Ferrell Honored: Whitecaps pitcher Jeff Ferrell has been named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for July 30-August 5. Ferrell had an extremely impressive showing against the Lake County Captains last week in the ‘Caps 6-0 shut-out win. He retired all of the 21 batters he faced before being taken out of the game after seven perfect innings of work. His outing included 11 ground-outs and six strikeouts in 79 pitches, and gave up only three hits. Ferrell, just 21 years old, underwent Tommy John surgery just 14 months ago. He started the 2011 campaign with the Whitecaps, before injury his elbow that led to the surgery. He missed the rest of last season and the start of this season, before joining West Michigan in May. So far, he has a 4-4 record with a 4.42 ERA, with 60 strikeouts, and holding the opposition to a .209 batting average. Ferrell is a native of Wilmington, North Carolina and a 26th round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers.

Fifth-Third one of fifth best: The Whitecaps home, Fifth-Third Ballpark, was mentioned as one of five Minor League ballparks on the Fox News website recently. The story titled ‘Five Minor League Baseball Parks You Have To Visit’, stated that the stadium in Comstock Park, Michigan has the best food for baseball fans. The Fifth-Third Burger certainly still packs a mighty punch. The story can be found here: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2012/08/01/five-minor-league-baseball-parks-have-to-visit/?intcmp=features

MudHen Marathon: The Tigers Triple-A affiliate in the International League, the Toledo MudHens suffered a  tough 10-9 loss Monday night to the Rochester Red Wings. One-run losses are always hard to swallow, especially when they are in extra innings….19 innings to be exact. The contest took over 6 1/2 hours to compete, and featured plenty of former Whitecaps. For the Red Wings, Clete Thomas  went 2-8 with a walk and two runs scored. Wilkin Ramirez was 4-9 with a double, run scored, and an RBI. Pitcher Luke French threw for 3.1 innings, giving up two hits and five strikeouts. For the MudHens, Andy Oliver pitched 2.0 innings giving up one hit and striking out 3. Luis Marte gave up one hit, but was burned for two runs in just 0.1 innings. Luke Putkonen pitched five innings, giving up four hits, no runs, and striking out three. Jose Ortega threw for 2.0 innings giving up six hits and three runs.

Former West Michigan Whitecap and Detroit Tiger Clete Thomas.

Rond-on the move: Former Whitecaps pitcher Bruce Rondon has been promoted from the Double-A Erie Seawolves to Toledo. He fills a spot after on of the MudHens’ pitchers was injured in the 19-inning loss. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski stated that he believes that he’s ready for the Triple-A level, though. Rondon started the season at Lakeland, going 1-0, with a 1.93 ERA, with 15 saves, and 34 strikeouts. With Erie, he was 0-1 with a 0.83 ERA, with 12 saves on 23 strikeouts. He struggled with his control last season with West Michigan, issuing 7.6 walks per nine innings, but his walk-to-strikeout ratio this season is 3.8.

Fifth-Third Ballpark photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps

Ferrell photo courtesy of MLive.com

Thomas photo property of Minoring In Baseball

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