Nashville Sounds vs. Oklahoma City Dodgers (Pacific Coast League)
First Tennessee Park-Nashville, TN: Over the weekend my best friend was lucky enough to take in a couple of games down in Nashville. He was also nice enough to supply me with some photos of his experience, and it definitely looks like a great place to see a ballgame. The scoreboard looks especially unique, and fits into the theme of Nashville so much, and just one of the reasons I love minor league baseball. The Sounds hosted the Oklahoma City Dodgers both nights he was there, winning 3-2 on Friday, and 7-2 on Saturday. The top photo, and the one below are from Friday nights game.
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
Duane Below makes MLB debut with the Tigers
Everyone loves a ‘local boy makes good’ story, so this should make some readers ecstatic. Britton, Michigan native Duane Below made his Major League debut Wednesday night against the Oakland A’s at Comerica Park, about an hour away from his home town. The Tigers lost 7-5, but Below pitched well in his first game and gave his team a chance to win. He threw five innings, giving up three runs on five hits, but only one run was earned. He also had two strike outs in the game. Below seemed pleased with his performance, though.
“It’s nice, it’s exciting,” Below told MLB.com. “[I was] just trying to continue to feel it out and feel what I have to do to get better. I’m still kind of nervous a little bit, I’m still excited, not sure how to take it, because it’s still settling in. It’s a dream. Hopefully I can continue to stay here and help the team win.”
I love it when players sound like little kids when their dreams come true. We were lucky enough to see Below pitch when he was with the Whitecaps back in 2007. The game was a sell-out at the time, with a local boy on the mound, and the ‘Caps picking up an 8-4 win over visiting Fort Wayne. Below also pitched five innings in that game and gave up one run. He posted a 2.97 ERA with West Michigan in 2007, and had a record of 13-5. He was named the Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Year and the Whitecaps Pitcher of the Year after leading the Midwest League in strikeouts with 160 in 2007. I was able to scrounge up a couple of pics from that game before my MLBlog days, but nothing real good of Below.
Cruz traded to Kansas City Royals
Now-former Whitecaps pitcher Antonio Cruz was traded to the Kansas City Royals yesterday, in a deal that brought infielder Wilson Betemit to the Tigers. Lucky for Cruz, the Whitecaps were hosting KC affiliate Kane County Cougars, so he just walked across the field to his new dugout and team. He first joined the ‘Caps as an 18-yr-old in 2010, going 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA during ten late season relief appearances. This season, the left-handed hurler was 2-6 with a 3.11 ERA. At the beginning of the season he was a starter, but was moved to the bullpen to limit his innings pitched.
With the acquisition of Betemit, former Whitecap and Tigers staple third baseman Brandon Inge has been designated for assignment and has reported to the Triple A Toledo MudHens. He needs to clear waivers next Monday, but Inge can’t really picture himself playing anywhere but Detroit.
“I could’ve made the decision not to accept the assignment, and maybe get picked up by another team,” Inge stated. “But i live here, my kids go to school around here, I’ve made this home. I still feel, no matter what happens–and no matter what will ever happen–that this is home for me. I’ve spent so many years here, and still plan on spending a lot more here. Everyone goes through rough patches in their career. This is definitely on of them. But I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason, and I opted not to push them into making a decision where they could release me.”
Inge is a fan favorite, and one of my favorites, but this had to be done. I wish him the best, and hope he can turn things around.
Below photo courtesy of Joel Dinda/mwlguide
Whitecaps game photo property of M.I.B.
Cruz photo courtesy of Emily Jones/MiLB