Former West Michigan Whitecaps starting pitcher Jacob Turner earned his fist Major League victory last night, in a game that helped Detroit sweep the division rival Chicago White Sox, and putting them 1.5 games ahead in the Central standings. Re-bounding from a rough outing against the Angels last week, Turner pitched well in his 5 1/3 innings of work, giving up 3 runs in the Tigers 6-4 win. He struck-out three batters and never issued a walk. The Tigers have now won five straight and 16 of their last 21 games. Helping out offensively, and also a Whitecaps alum, was Brennan Boesch, who hit a two-run homer in the third inning. This is his second home run in as many games and was 2-3 in the game. Also pitching in was a decent little hitter Miguel Cabrera, who pounded two over the Comerica wall, numbers 299 and 300 respectively. Not bad, maybe we should keep an eye on this guy?
Turner pitched one partial season for the Whitecaps in 2010. He went 2-3 with a 3.67 ERA and 51 strike-outs.
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
A suprise out of this seasons Tigers spring training camp was pitcher Brayan Villarreal. The hard throwing right-hander was thrilled yesterday to find he made Detroits 25-man roster. After hearing the good news, the 23 year old from Venezuela immediately called his parents.
“This is the moment I’ve been waiting for for a long time,” Villarreal stated. “It feels really, really good. I can’t say how good I feel. My mom and dad were just so happy. They said ‘You deserve it; you worked hard. I am proud’.”
Villarreal pitched in five games for the Tigers this spring, earning one save, striking out four, and had a 5.06 ERA. I was able to see him pitch against the Peoria Chiefs back in 2009 while he was with the Whitecaps. In that outing he pitched five scoreless innings and had a measely 1.06 ERA at the time.
Also making the cut on Saturday are outfielders Casper Wells and Brennan Boesch. Niether player made last years team out of spring training, but did well when they were called up.
“This is tremendous,” Wells said. “It’s a stepping stone to what I hope to accomplish. And it’s really nice to break camp with the team. I grew up following the Yankees, and went to games at old Yankee Stadium. This will be my first time at the new Yankee Stadium, and I can’t wait.”
In 36 games last season, Wells batted .323 and manager Jim Leyland stated he had the second best outfield glove on the team behind Austin Jackson. Boesch batted .256 last season, and led all American League rookies with 14 home runs and 67 RBI’s.
Boesch stated, “It’s the first time breaking camp with the team and that’s cool. It’s and honor and everything. But I fully expected to be here. I did a few things last year, but I also know competition is good for the organization, and I never have a problem with competing.”
These players join former Whitecaps Alex Avila, Brandon Inge, Joel Zumaya, Ramon Santiago, Don Kelly, Ryan Raburn, and Will Rhymes (who won out the second base job) on Detroit’s Opening Day roster. That’s a pretty impressive list of former ‘Caps. Good luck to all these guys, as there success should be wins for the Tigers.
Photo property of M.I.B
Winter Banquet and HOF: The Whitecaps 2011 Winter Banquet will be held on Wednesday, January 19th this year, and will be headlined by Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski. Also speaking at the event, is new ‘Caps skipper Ernie Young and alumni Will Rhymes and Brennan Boesch. This event will also feature the 2011 Whitecaps Hall of Fame ceremony which will induct current Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya, catcher Ramon Hernandez, and groundskeeper Heather Nabozny. Heather took good care of Fifth Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids before becoming the first female head groundskeeper in the Majors with the Tigers.
Alumni Moves: Former Whitecap center fielder Cameron Maybin was shipped from the Florida Marlins to the San Diego Padres for Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. Maybin was on the Marlins opening day roster in 2009 and 2010. Maybin was sent to Florida from Detroit in the deal for Miguel Cabrera and was part of West Michigan’s 2006 Midwest League championship team. The Padres look for his range in center to be a great asset playing at Petco Park. Also on the move is pitcher Alfredo Figaro. The Tigers sold his contract to the Orix Buffaloes of the Japanese Pacific League. In eight appearances for the Tigers, he was 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA. Figaro was 10-6 with a 4.14 ERA in 23 starts for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens in 2010.
Tiger Fridays: Tigers Fridays are back at Fifth Third Ballpark for this season. Former Tigers Johnny Grubb, Steve Kemp, Frank Lary, Mickey Tettleton, Dick Tracewski, Jason Thompson, and Richie Hebner will be making appearances. The dates are June 3 & 17, July 1, 22, & 29, and August 12 & 26. The team hasn’t released the dates each former Tiger will be attending, though. I hope I have a chance to make it down to meet Tettleton. He’s one of my favorite players of all time.
Non-Roster Invite: Outfielder Avisail Garcia in one of the 18 non-roster players the Tigers have invited to spring training in Lakeland, FL. Garcia has spent the last two seasons with the ‘Caps and is ranked as the Tigers ninth-best prospect by Baseball America. In 2010 he batted .281 with four home runs, 63 doubles, and 20 stolen bases. In 2009 he was a .264 hitter in 81 games in West Michigan. He’ll be at Spring Training with former ‘Caps outfielders Andy Dirks, Ben Guez, Casper Wells, Clete Thomas, and Brennan Boesch.
Fifth Third Burger on TV…Again: Last year the famous West Michigan Whitecaps Fifth Third Burger was featured on Man v. Food. This year, the giant hamburger will be featured on the Food Network’s series ‘Unwrapped’ with host Marc Summers. The show will air at 9:00 p.m. on January 22 in an episode called ‘Game Day Goodies’. I plan on tackling this monsterous burger this season, but I’ll have three hungary kids to help polish it off. In two seasons, the ‘Caps have served 3,253 Fifth Third Burgers to fans, and 761 have attempted the Challenge to eat the whole thing by themselves. A total of 483 people have won the challenge, earning a T-shirt and their pic on the ‘wall of champs’.
A Look Ahead: This should be a fun year for us at the Whitecaps games. I’m trying to get my work schedules manipulated so the kids and I can make it to Opening Day and hopefully Star Wars day again in July. Brian will be making his debut at Fifth Third Ballpark this season, also. Below is a pic of him sporting his new hat he got for his third birthday on the 11th. I’ve also added a ‘Caps game to my baseball trip, as we’re flying back into Michigan via Grand Rapids. Why not stay and catch one more game?
Photos property of M.I.B.
‘Caps in Second(to last): With a record of 7-14 so far this young season, obviously West Michigan’s young roster is having some struggles. The Whitecaps finally broke out of thier offensive slump yesterday, though, beating the Lansing Lugnuts 7-2 on the back of 12 hits. They had scored just three runs in their previous five games. The losing streak even prompted manager Joe DePastino to call their hitting struggles ‘ugly’ earlier this week. Instead of having someone throw batting practice, he had the team use the pitching machine with some speed in order to get the team to shorten their strides and hit line drives up the middle. It seemed to have worked.
The bright spot so far in 2010 is the young pitching staff. This year’s rotation is sporting a solid 3.15 ERA with the bullben being 2-2 with a 2.83 ERA in the past 15 games. Starter Trevor Feeney leads the way with 24 strikeouts and a 3.25 ERA in 27.2 innings pitched. Also throwing well are Jacob Turner (0-0, 1.00) and Giovani Soto (1-1, 2.63). Turner unfortunately was place on the DL Monday for stiffness in his right arm. He had only allowed one run and seven hits in his two starts.
Inge Bobblehead: If you happen to be in the Grand Rapids area on May 7, stop into Fifth Third Ballpark for your free Brandon Inge bobblehead. The bobbling likeness of the former Whitecap and current Detroit Tiger will be given away to the first 1,000 fans through the gate.
Boesch MLB Debut: Outfielder Brennan Boesch recently made his Major League debut for the Tigers after Carlos Guillen was placed on the DL. In five game with the Tigers he is batting .278 with five hits, including three doubles and three RBI’s. He was a 3rd round pick of Detroit in the 2006 draft. Playing for the Whitecaps in 2007, he hit .267 with 19 doubles and 10 home runs. This kid definately has some power. He’ll need to cut down on the strikeouts and work on his fielding a bit to stay up at this level.
This will be my last post for at least another week or so, as I’m leaving for my baseball trip to Iowa later today. Wish me a safe journey with no rainouts.
Inge photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
Boesch photo courtesy of the Midwest League
The Detroit Tigers announced on Thursday that they will be assigning Jacob Turner, thier first round pick of the 2009 draft (9th overall), to the West Michigan Whitecaps (Low A). The 18-year-old pitched for the Westminster Christian Academy High School in St. Louis last season. Whitecaps CEO and managing partner Lew Chamberlin told the Grand Rapids Press, “Turner represents the future of the Tigers, and I hope people would want to come out here and see him.” He has had an impressive spring training, and can hopefully keep it up at this level. I hope to get a chance to see him pitch before he’s moved up to Lakeland(high A) or even Erie(AA), which is a possibility.
Also, some former Whitecaps have been on the move this weekend as well. Optioned to the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens were outfielders Casper Wells, Brennan Boesch, and Ryan Strieby, as well as right handed pitcher Alfredo Figaro. Infielder Audy Ciriaco was been assigned to Double-A Erie Sea Wolves, while short-stop Gustavo Nunez has been sent to Minor League camp and has not been assigned yet.
Good luck this season to Turner and the West Michigan alumi in the Tigers organization. Looks like it will be an exciting year, especially seeing how Scott Sizemore does at the MLB level in Detroit.
Top photo courtesy of Westminster Christian Academy
Bottom photo property of MIB