Last Monday the West Michigan Whitecaps’ season came to an end. Also coming to an end, was Ernie Young’s tenure as the ‘Caps manager, as he was notified after the game by the Detroit Tigers organization that his contract won’t be renewed. This news he handled with class, and kept to himself, until he was back home in Arizona the next day.
“They’re not going to renew my contract for next year,” Young stated to MLive.com over the phone. “I knew yesterday, I just didn’t tell anyone. They gave a reason (but Young did not state the reason). There are going to be some changes, but that’s the only one that I can tell you about. I can’t speak to or for anyone else.”
The ‘Caps went 72-68 this season, and 70-69 in 2011. Unfortunelty, they missed the playoffs both years even with winning records. At this point it’s unknown whether pitching coach Mark Johnson or hitting coach Scott Dwyer will be brought back, but both did their job well. Coaching in the minors is a tough gig, but I thought Young has done a pretty good job. Last season with top prospect Nick Castellanos struggling out of the gate, the coaching staff helped him turn his season around and lead the league in hits. West Michigan struggled at times this season more due to injuries than anything else. They lost power hitters Steven Moya and Dean Green to injuries, then a promotion to Green. They also lost catcher Curt Casali when he was promoted. Young is a former manager of the Class-A Kannapolis Intimidators in 2009-10. The 2009 team lead the South Atlantic League with a 82-57 record. He has also served as hitting coach for Great Falls in the Pioneer League in 2008 following his Major League career that included eight seasons with Oakland. His 142 wins is fifth all-time for the Whitecaps. He seems positive he’ll land with a new team, though.
“I’ll redo my resume’ tonight and tomorrow and get it out to the other teams and go from there”, Young said. “I’ll bounce back and I’ll be on my feet. I’ll tell you what, I enjoyed my time in West Michigan. The fans were great to me. I don’t have anything to be upset about because I know how hard I worked and what I gave to the organization.”
I wish Young all the best, as I think that he did well the last two seasons in West Michigan. Now, I guess, is the time to try to guess who the new manager will be, although we may not get an answer for several months. Back in February, I wrote that I thought that former Tigers infielder Brandon Inge would be a perfect fit in West Michigan. Some of my reasons included his 12 year stint with Detroit, and owner Mike Illitch’s reputation for taking care of his loyal players, and the fact that Inge still lives in Michigan and has his family here. His experience at various positions and the fact that his playing career may be coming to and are other factors. In fact, this season for Inge has already come to an end due to injury. Now, also playing for the Oakland A’s, Inge suffered a season ending shoulder injury on the first of the month. He originally dislocated it on August 11, and had just come off the DL when he injured it again.
“My damn shoulder came out again,” Inge told the Sporting News. “I gave it my best shot. I knew it was going to be rough coming into it. In a year like this, you don’t leave anything on the table. I literally gave everything I had to offer to this team. And I’m at peace with it.”
He also stated he was in pain before the re-injury, but wanted to help the A’s in their playoff push. In 74 games with Oakland, he hit .266 with 11 home runs and 52 RBI’s. Inge was brought in last April when fellow Whitecaps alumni Scott Sizemore went down with a season ending injury of his own. If Sizemore is good to go by next season, it will be unlikely that Inge’s contract will be picked back up, and courting a new time at this point in his career could prove difficult. Now, I like Brandon Inge, I really do. I love the fact that he wants to compete and contribute to his team, and I respect the hell out of that. At this point in his life, though, it may be time for a change. A job with the Whitecaps would put him very close to his family, and give him a stable environment. Inge is still very popular in West Michigan and has said nothing but good things about playing there. I’m sure if the Whitecaps themselves had a say in it, he might be a top candidate. It’s the Tigers organization, however, that will make that call. Honesty, I don’t see any other reason that Young would get the axe unless they really had someone else lined up to replace him. Hitting coach Scott Dwyer has head coaching experience, so he would be a solid candidate to get promoted also, with maybe Inge taking his job. If any of these bold predictions do come to pass, however, remember you read it here first: http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com/2012/02/12/the-future-of-brandon-inge/
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
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.
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
Whitecaps second year manager Ernie Young seems to be expecting a new look to this years West Michigan lineup. He’s been in Lakeland, FL keeping an eye on the prospects there, getting an idea of who might be on the 2012 roster, and get a game plan. He told Peter J. Wallner of MLive.com:
“Each manager for each ball club wants to see what the players can or can’t do. We have to see for ourselves so we can make them better and going in the right direction.”
Based on age and experience, we might see players like catchers Patrick Leyland (son of Tigers manager Jim Leyland) and James McCann. McCann was Detroit’s second round draft pick in 2011 who played five games with the Whitecaps last season. Another possibility is Melvin Mercedes, a relief pitcher who spent most of last season in short season Connecticut. That’s just a great baseball name, period. Young compared last seasons roster to this years possibilities:
‘I had a really young team and we had a lot of growing pains the first part of the year, and I knew that was going to happen. I kept telling the guys to keep battling because we would be better on Sept. 7 than on April 7. And sure enough, we were. Every year is a different year. I’m sure this group of Whitecaps will probably be a little older than the team I had last year. But still, we’re going to learn to play baseball the Tiger way and that’s the key-them going out there and getting better and learning from their mistakes throughout the season to make ourselves better by the end of the season.”
Last season the Whitecaps were 70-69 overall (32-37 first half, 38-32 second half), good for fifth overall in the Midwest League, but missed the playoffs by just one game. Young will be joined again this season by pitching coach Mark Johnson. The new hitting coach will be Scotty Dwyer who moved up from short season Connecticut. The Tigers break camp on Sunday, April 1st, and the players will be assigned. Not much of a turnaround, as the ‘Caps begin their season on the road in Dayton April 5, with the home opener slated for April 9th hosting Bowling Green.
Fans will be able to get their first look at the 2012 Whitecaps on Tuesday, April 3rd at Fifth Third Ballpark. The club will hold an open practice from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. After their workout, the team will be on the concourse to sign autographs for fans. This will also be a chance to showboat the new scoreboard and high-resolution video board at Fifth Third. The start of the Minor League season seems sooner than usual, as they’ve started about a week later than their MLB counterparts in the past. It doesn’t look like they’ll have an exhibition game against Grand Valley State this season, either. It will feel good to get the season going, though.
Photo property of M.I.B.
The Streak: The Whitecaps young season has been interesting so far, to say the least. After having the first three games of the season postponed, to a beautifull opening day with 80 degree weather, to their five game winning streak. The unfortunate part, however, is thier current streak that has the team suffering it’s eleventh loss in a row, a new franchise record. The previous record was the inagural 1994 team that endured a nine game losing streak from July 22-30. A streak like this is tough on a ball club, especially the mangaer. Ernie Young made some statements to the Grand Rapids Press:
“We have a young team and we’re going to make mistakes. Right now, we’re taking some lumps, but I expect these guys to keep battling, get better and be professional.” He also stated: “It’s tough on everybody. It’s tough on the players, it’s tough on myself. I go home every night and re-manage the game from that day for anything I could have done differently. My job is to go out there and encourage these guys, let them know I’ve been in their shoes, I’ve done the same things they’re doing. As long as I can keep preaching to the and believe, they’re going to come through.”
Young seems to be the perfect manager to turn this youthfull team around. They’re in the cellar of the Midwest League as of now with a record of 7-14, but they were in last place at the begining of last season while still earning a playoff spot in the second half. The players seem to be taking things in stride, also. Some of the players also spoke to the Grand Rapids Press.
“It’s not like we’re not hitting, it has just been the timing of them,” stated Nick Constellanos. “We’re going to work hard to get through this.”
“Obviously, we’re frustrated,” stated P.J. Polk. “You want to win, but I think we’re as positive as you can be in this situation. Everybody is doinig their part in picking each other up. We’ll be all right.”
It’s only the fist month, so even a small winning streak can even out their record and get them back into the MWL title hunt.
Jonathan Welscott: The Whitecaps had a very special guest announcer on Friday, junior-high student Jonathan Welscott. Jonathan, who just happens to be blind and suffers from a mild for of cerebral palsy, announced the batters in the third inning at Fifth Third Ballpark.
“It was really cool,” Welscott told the Press. “I guess I was a good luck charm for the Whitecaps. I had no idea what it would be like, but it was a cool experience.”
The Whitecap scored three runs in the third while he was announcing. Maybe hire this kid full time? Why not, as announcing is nothing new to this eigth-grader. He’s called middle school and high school games in the past two years including volleyball, basketball, and football. Despite not being able to perticipate in sports, he still loves the games, and has a great attitude for someone who’s undergone more than 20 eye surgeries since he was born.
“Since it is hard to be involved in sports because I’m blind, this is a way for me to be involved in sports and I like doing it.”
This is a ‘beyond baseball’ moment if I ever heard one, people. All the best for this kid.
The Zumaya List: This is formerly known as the disabled list. Whitecaps pitcher Richard Zumaya has recently been put on the DL with shoulder stiffness. The 21-yr-old experienced discomfort after he took the loss in Friday’s game. He joins his brother Joel Zumaya, a career DLer with the Tigers. At least they can keep each other company and get some quality video game time in.
Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press
The Detroit Tigers organization along with the West Michigan Whitecaps have set the opening day roster which includes ten returning players and seven that are on Baseball America’s top prospect list. This will be a young team just like last year, with six teenagers being asigned to Detroit’s Single-A affilate in Grand Rapids.
The top prospect making the team is third baseman Nick
Castellanos (pictured), who is ranked number two on Detroit’s list after former ‘Cap Jacob Turner. The 19 year old was Detroit’s first pick and 44th overall in 2010. Castellanos impressed scouts at the 2009 Under Armor All-American Game at Wrigley Field where he won the home run derby and was named Player of the Game after hitting 4-4 with four doubles. Playing at Archbishop McCarthy High School in Florida, he was named 2010 Gatorade Player of the Year after hitting .542, 41 RBI’s, six homers, and 22 steals.
Other prospects joining this years club are relief pitcher Bruce Rondon, catcher Rob Brantley, shortstop Dixon Machado (sweet baseball name btw), and starting pitchers Kyle Ryan and Ramon Lebron.
The amount of young talent has first year Whitecaps manager Ernie Young optimistic about the upcoming season. He told the Grand Rapids Press: “It’s going to be and exciting group of guys. We’re going to do a lot of things baseball-wise–we’re going to hit-and-run, steal and take extra bases. We’re going to do little things to help us become a better ball club.”
Returnig to West Michigan are Brantly, Lebron, Antonio Cruz, Shawn Teufel, Patrick Cooper, Jordan Pratt, Luis Alberto Sanz, Hernan Perez, Jimmy Gulliver and Jeff Rowland.
Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Press