Monday, April 30, 2007

Sheffield, Rodney Lead Tigers Over O's

Gary Sheffield and Fernando Rodney had struggled a lot in the first month but on the last day of April they were two of the heroes in an 8-4 victory over the Orioles. Sheffield was at the center of attention all night long. He put the Tigers ahead 5-3 with a two run homer in the 5th. He also walked twice , was hit by a pitch, stole a base, alertly moved up on two wild pitches , scored 3 runs in all and was a visible participant in a near brawl.

Jeremy Bonderman had his usual first inning troubles giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and it took him 38 pitches to do it. He settled down a bit after that but still gave up 4 runs in 5 innings. He left with a 5-4 lead after giving up a lead off homer to Jay Gibbons in the 6th. Wil Ledezma relieved him and allowed 2 walks but was helped out immensely by Pudge Rodriguez who threw out speedsters Corey Patterson and Brian Roberts an attempted steals.

Ledezma retired the first two batters in the 7th but yielded to Rodney who struck out Miguel Tejada for the final out. Rodney then breezed through the 8th and 9th, the only base runner coming on a Brandon Inge error.

The game almost broke into brawl in the 5th inning. Bonderman had thrown inside to Tejada breaking his bat in the third. It certainly did not appear that he was trying to hit him but the Orioles retaliated anyway. Daniel Cabrera deliberately hit Gary Sheffield in the bottom of the inning. Sheffield did not respond. Not yet.

Bonderman then threw inside to Tejada, again not hitting him in the 5th. Tejada pointed and shouted towards Bonderman, Bonderman approached him the benches emptied. Nothing much happened although Joel Zumaya was clearly ready to rumble and had to be restrained. Sheffield got into it a little with Cabrera but again things were kept under control.

Sheffield finally got his message across to Cabrera when he crushed the homer in the 5th and stared him down as he rounded the bases. It was Sheffield's first Comerica homer and biggest moment as a Tiger so far.

Lakeland Flying Tigers Vacation

My father and I just got back from Lakeland yesterday after watching the Flying Tigers play three games versus the Clearwater Threshers of the Phillies organization. The Tigers did not play well and they were swept 11-3, 8-1 and 7-1 but we did see some positives and had a great time at Joker Marchant Stadium. We escaped the rain and cold of the northeast and enjoyed three days of temperatures in the high 80s with low humidity. The weather could not have been better.

I had been to Lakeland several times in the past for spring training and I loved it. This year, I decided to go during the regular season instead and it turned out to be a good choice. With the tourists gone for the most part, Lakeland had a very quiet and relaxed pace. The ballpark experience was more intimate with only a few hundred fans, mostly local people who attend the games regularly. Joker Marchant Stadium seemed like a very close-knit community. I'm sure the club is not happy with the low attendance but it suited me fine. I met a few friends from Motownsports for the first time and all of them were very friendly and knowledgeable about the Lakeland team and organization.

The best part was probably the stadium experience but I also enjoyed the games even though the Flying Tigers were completely outplayed. I was really disappointed when Cameron Maybin missed the first two games with a back problem but luckily I did get to see him in one game. It's hard to say much about him, based on one game, that has not been said yet. He is a good athlete who is very fast, has patience and hits the ball hard. He also looked really bad on a couple of swings but he's an exciting work in process. He did not have any difficult plays in the outfield so I can't really comment on his defense.

I also got to see Andrew Miller but it was not his night. The tall gangly left-hander threw hard and showed his sharp breaking slider but he had a rough game giving up 7 earned runs on 10 hits and 4 walks in 4 2/3 innings. Some of it was poor fielding support but his control was not good and they hit several balls hard. He looked raw and in need of more minor league seasoning.

One player who was a pleasant surprise was Wilken Ramirez. I've heard some scouts rave about him but his stats had been pretty bad in the past. He's a big strong guy with surprising speed for a guy that size. He may lack patience but he was making good hard contact all 3 nights. He went 4 for 11, stole 2 bases and looked comfortable in the outfield. I'm no scout but I came away understanding why the scouts like him. His stats are better this year. Hopefully, he continues to develop.

Burke Badenhop gave up a 3 run homerun in the first inning of game 3 but settled down after that. He's not a hard thrower but I was impressed with his control.

Sendy Vazquez pitched his last game before serving a 50 game suspension which he received when he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. He threw very hard but did not seem to have much else to offer. He was clocked at 98 MPH but I was told that the scoreboard radar reading might have been a little fast.

Ovandy Suero is not a highly regarded prospect but his speed was amazing. He is one of the fastest players I've seen in a while. He beat out two infield hits and had a hustle double. He also looked decent in center field in place of Maybin.

On the final night, they turned off all the lights after the game and gave the fans a pretty impressive fireworls display. It was a fitting end to a great summer weekend.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Heading South

I'm off to Lakend tomorrow to watch Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and the Flying Tigers. I'll also get to escape the rain and cold of the northeast this weekend and experience 3 days of sun and temps in the high 80s. I will have little or no internet access while I'm down there but I'll give you my amateur scouting report on Sunday night or shortly thereafter.

Chad Durbin Dominates White Sox

Earlier today, internet fans were wondering whether this would be Chad Durbin's last start and they were debating who would replace him. Would it be Andrew Miller? Wil Ledezma? Virgil Vasquez? I have to admit that I was asking the same questions and my thought was Virgil Vasquez. Durbin emphatically answered the question for us with a dominating performance versus the White Sox. He pitched 8 shutout innings allowing just 3 hits and no walks and piling up a career high 9 strikeouts.

The Tigers won 6-2 but the 9th inning was not comfortable to watch. With two outs and nobody on base, Joel Zumaya hit a batter and then walked 4 in a row to allow 2 runs. It was one of his worst outings as a Tiger and Todd Jones had to come in to get the final out.

Magglio Ordonez continued his sizzling pace with his 3rd consecutive 3 hit game and is now batting .338/.416/.584. He is 2nd on the team in batting average and leads in the other two categories. His 20 RBI are 2nd in the league to Alex Rodriguez. Ivan Rodriguez also had 3 hits and Placido Polanco, Gary Sheffield and Brandon Inge had 2 apiece.

The story of the game though was Durbin. I have a feeling he'll get another start.

Guillen Sits

Carlos Guillen was replaced by Omar Infante at shortstop today after his two error game yesterday. the day off had nothing to do with the errors though. Jason Beck reports that Guillen has a stiff shoulder which Carlos attributes to a new throwing angle. You may have noticed that he has been throwing overhand this year instead of his old sidearm motion. He made the switch in hopes of reducing the throwing errors which plagued him last year. It has not worked so he's going back to his old sidearm throws.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tigers Split Quick Series with Angels

In a quick two game series that started late last night and ended early this evening, the Tigers came away with a split with the Angels. It was 7-3 when I went to bed last night and I woke up to the news that they had won 9-5. Today, I listened to bits and pieces before and after work and heard a wild 9-8 loss in 10 innings. Here are the highlights:

Monday Night

Jered Weaver had nothing and the Tigers took advantage jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the 2nd inning.

Mike Maroth had problems with his control and couldn't last the 5 innings required for a victory. He allowed 7 hits and 5 walks in 4 2/3 innings. With his mediocre stuff, he is very ineffective when he can't get the ball over the plate.

Curtis Granderson continued to do a little bit of everything collecting a single, a double and a home run to go with a stolen base and an outfield assist.

Gary Sheffield looked a little better at the plate and was 2 for 4 with a walk and no strike outs. Magglio Ordonez had 3 hits and Carlos Guillen and Pudge Rodriguez added 2 apiece.

Tuesday Afternoon

They fell behind 7-0 early. Bonderman was hit hard (11 hits in 6 innings) and was also the victim of poor defense including errors on consecutive plays by Carlos Guillen in the 1st inning. He did have 8 strikeouts against 1 walk to give him a very impressive 29/4 ratio in 34 innings this year.

They had a very exciting comeback capped by a 2 run homer by Magglio Ordonez off of Francisco Rodriguez in the 9th. The home run gave them an 8-7 lead.

Todd Jones lost the lead in the 9th inning for his 2nd blown save of the year. It did not sound as if he got much support as Ordonez apparently misplayed a fly ball and Vladimir Guerrero ended up with a double. Then Pudge Rodriguez let a pitch get by him for the tying run. Jones lost the game in the 9th thanks, in part, to his own error on a ball which he should have let go foul.

Fernando Rodney was very sharp today pitching 2 perfect innings with 2 strikeouts. They really need him to get going so that was a good sign.

Ordonez had his 2nd 3 hit game in a row. Granderson had his 4th home run of the season and his 2nd in 2 nights.

Quick Analysis

In their first 20 games, they have already played 11 one run games and are 6-5 in those games. They are 2-5 in extra inning games.

Without looking at any fielding stats, they have been very sloppy over the past week or so. This team was very dependent on fielding last year and this year they might be even more so. With an injured Kenny Rogers and a struggling bullpen, they really can't afford to be making so many errors and other fielding miscues.







Sunday, April 22, 2007

Tigers Avoid Sweep

Today's game was a lot like the other two games of the series. It was a close back and forth game with the team scoring last getting the victory. The big difference was this time the Tigers scored last and came away with a 6-5 win in 12 innings. Thus, today's story is about heroes rather than goats.

The first hero today was Marcus Thames. With the Tigers down 5-3 in the 9th with 2 outs and red hot Dave Aardsma on the mound, Carlos Guillen reached on a single. Marcus Thames, playing left field today in place of slumping Craig Monroe, then belted a home run to left center field to tie the game and send it into extra innings.

The second hero was Wil Ledezma/Jason Grilli who combined for 4 scoreless innings and kept the score tied. Ledezma came into the game in the 9th after Aquilino Lopez allowed a 2 run home run to Tiger killer Joe Crede making it 5-3 White Sox in the 8th. Ledezma pitched innings 9 to 11 and Grilli pitched a perfect 12th. Joel Zumaya, Todd Jones and Fernando Rodney were nowhere to be found today as they were rested after a busy week.

The third hero was the hot hitting Placido Polanco. Ivan Rodriguez and Craig Monroe reached base in the 12th on walks and then Polanco poked one into left field where nobody was for the game winning hit. Polanco seems to be able to hit the ball wherever he wants right now. He did that last year too but this year he seems to be making more solid contact and is thus getting more hits. He went 2 for 5 today to raise his batting average to .377.

So the Tigers avoided the sweep by their divisional rivals and now head off on a brief but tough 4 game road trip - two games versus the Angels and two more against the White Sox.

For another recap of today's game and some interesting statistical tidbits, check out Kurt's Mack Avenue Tigers.

Detroit Tigers Prospect Report - 04/22/2007

During the course of the year, I will be giving statistical updates and other information on the Tigers organization. I will cover all the consensus top prospects as well as other noteworthy perfomers. For daily recaps and other news on Tigers prospects, check out Matt Wallace's Take 75 North. It's still too early for the stats to be very conclusive but here is what's happening so far:

Toledo Mud Hens (AAA) 8-8

Chris Shelton is trying to get back to the Tigers and has had mixed results so far. He is batting .302/.433/.434 in his first 53 at bats. He has 12 walks but also 21 strikeouts which is a lot given his modest power output in the early going.

Jordan Tata is currently on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. He is not scheduled to have surgery but will be out 4-6 weeks.

Another player who is aiming for a spot on the Tigers this year is Ryan Raburn. The former infielder is playing outfield these days and is batting .296 with 5 doubles and 3 homers in 55 at bats.

With Chad Durbin struggling to hold the 5th starter job in Detroit, and Andrew Miller not dominating A ball, Virgil Vasquez is likely on the Tigers radar. Vazquez has a 3.48 ERA with an impressive 28 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings. That's a lot strikeouts for a finesse guy.

Zack Miner, who pitched well for the Tigers when Mike Maroth went down last year, has a 10.69 ERA in 4 starts.

Erie Sea Wolves (AA) 6-6

A good year for first baseman Jeff Larish would really raise his stock on the national prospect scene. He is showing his power and patience but is struggling to make contact. In 12 games, he is batting .229 with 6 walks and 6 extra base hits.

Third baseman Kody Kirkland is well regarded by some scouts but the results have not been there so far. He showed some power last year but batted just .217. This year, he is batting .293/.341/.439 in 11 games.

Michael Hollimon spent the first two years of his professional career as one of the older players in his league. This year, he is getting tested as he has jumped two levels from low A ball (West Michigan) to AA. He has responded to the promotion by batting .324/.480/.514 in the first 11 games.

The 21 year old Jair Jurrjens is still relatively unknown nationally despite an impressive resume. He is on a strict pitch count and has only pitched 12 innings in 3 starts but the results have been good - a 1.50 ERA and 11/4 K/BB ratio.

Dallas Trahern has reached the level where finesse pitchers tend to run into trouble but he is off to a good start with a 0.93 ERA in 19 1/3 innings.

Lakeland (A+) 7-9

I'll be going down to Lakeland next weekend and one of the players I'll be watching closely is super prospect Cameron Maybin. Maybin is batting .308/.463/.635 with 7 stolen bases in 8 attempts. His strikeouts are high (21) but he also has 14 walks.

Scouts have raved about Wilken Ramirez's raw ability for a couple of years now but the results have not been good. He has been switched form third base to outfield and is off to a little better start offensively. He is batting .292/.314/.428 but has a 2/15 BB/K ratio. It's important to remember that he is just 21 and still has time to put it together.

There has been a lot of talk about Andrew Miller starting for the Tigers this year at some point. The results have been mixed so far - two good games and two not so good games. He has a 3.04 ERA and 14/5 K/BB ratio in 23 2/3 innings.

Burke Badenhop has a 1.53 ERA and has walked just one batter in 17 2/3 innings over 3 starts.

West Michigan (A) 7-7

Raw toolsy outfielder Gorkys Hernandez is getting his first shot at full season ball this year and is off to a solid start - .349/.404/.419.

First baseman Ryan Strieby is batting .260 with 4 doubles and 2 home runs in 14 games.

Chris Cody is a finesse pitcher who did well for Oneonta last year (2.38 ERA in 53 innings). He is off to a great start this year striking out 21 batters in 19 2/3 shutout innings.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Brian Bluhm Memorial Funds

There are two funds which have been set up in memory of Brian Bluhm. First, the community at Motown Sports is collecting donations to send to the Brian Bluhm memorial fund. I’ll be making my contribution as part of that group effort. If you are interested in making a contribution to that fund, the thread can be found here.

Also, Brian's family has started a scholarship fund. If you want to donate to that fund, you can send a check to: Brian Bluhm Virginia Tech Civil Engineering Scholarship Fund, c/o Marathon Bank, 4095 Valley Pike, Winchester VA 22601

Tigers Lose Third Straight

The Tigers lost to the White Sox 7-5 in 10 innings today for their third consecutive loss. There were some familiar themes. First (or actually last), their bullpen failed them again. Joel Zumaya allowed only his second run of the year to allow chicago to tie the game at 5 in the 8th. Fernando Rodney then allowed two runs, one of them earned, in the 10th to lose it. Rodney has now allowed runs in 5 of 8 appearances and has a 7.58 ERA in 8 innings pitched.

They got off to a good start offensively with a grandslam by Carlos Guillen in the first inning, the fourth Tiger slam of the year already. However, they managed just one run on three hits the rest of the way with the usual suspects not coming through. Continuing their month long slumps by going hitless on the day were Gary Sheffield (now batting .119), Sean Casey (.158), Craig Monroe (.186) and Brandon Inge (.115).

Bullpen and batting woes are nothing new to the Tigers right now but today their usually steady defense also had problems. They made three errors on the day and failed to turn double plays on two consecutive grounders contributing to a 3 run 4th. Inge, Guillen and Nate Robertson were all charged with errors in the game. The Robertson error occurred on a bizarre play in the 5th. With a runner on first, Robertson removed his cap in between pitches as if he was taking a brief break and then suddenly fired to first base. Casey was unprepared for the throw and it went over his head. It was as if they were back in the 2006 World Series again.

Robertson pitched pretty well but the poor fielding support hurt him. He allowed 4 runs, 3 earned, on 5 hits and 2 walks in 6 2/3 innings. He now has a 2.39 ERA in 26 1/3 innings of work on the season.

TheTigers will try to salvage one game of this three game series tomorrow afternoon at 1:05. It will be Justin Verlander versus Jon Garland.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tigers Lose series Opener to ChiSox

Playing against a legitimate American League Central contender for the first time this year, the Tigers lost to the White Sox 5-4 tonight. Chad Durbin pitched reasonably well for 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 2 hits, both of them home runs, and the Tigers led 4-2 going into the sixth. However, Durbin loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth and Jason Grilli gave up a single which tied the game 4-4. Grilli gave up another run in the 7th on a single by Darin Erstad and the White Sox had a 5-4 lead.

The Tigers had a chance to tie it in the 9th against closer Bobby Jenks. With two outs, Placido Polanco doubled and went to third on a wild pitch. Then, with 40,000 fans chanting "Gary Gary Gary", Gary Sheffield struck out against some masterful pitching by Jenks.

The hit for Polanco gave him 2 for 5 for the game and raised his league leading batting average to .382. This year he is hitting like the team MVP many said he was last year when he really wasn't. He is hitting the ball harder this year and is even showing a little power lately with 3 extra base hits in his last 3 games. Carlos Guillen added 2 hits with 2 RBI and a stolen base.

Aquilino Lopez had his first appearance as a Tiger tonight and pitched well. In two innings of work, he allowed no runs on one hit and most importantly (given his track record) walked nobody.

Tomorrow, it will be Nate Robertson against Jose Contreras at 1:05. Since this game starts nearly 3 hours before the Fox game of the week, it will be televised on MLB Extra Innings. This is a pleasant surprise as Saturday afternoon games are generally blacked out.

Jose Mesa Placed on DL

Jose Mesa was placed on the 15 day disabled list today with a groin pull. To replace him on the roster, the Tigers purchased the contract of Aquilino Lopez from Toledo. Edward Campusano was transferred from the 15 day DL to the 60 day DL to open up a spot on the 40 man roster. Mesa has not been much help so far allowing 6 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in 2 2/3 innings.

Lopez, who turns 32 tomorrow, is a right-handed pitcher who had been closing games for the Mudhens. He had pitched 6 1/3 innings allowing no runs on just 1 hit with a 6/2 k/BB ratio. He's a true journeyman pitcher who has pitched in 7 different prganizations. He started out in the Mariner organization but never made it to Seattle. He has had 3 major league seasons for Toronto,Philadelphia and Colorado pitching 101 games all in relief. In 111 1/3 innings pitched, he has a 3.72 ERA and a 99/54 k/BB ratio. From those stats, you can see that his problem has been control. His best season was 2003 when had a 3.04 ERA in 73 2/3 innings pitched for the Blue Jays.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tigers Lose to Royals in Extra Innings

It looked as if the Tigers would get their first sweep of the year today. They led 3-1 going into the ninth and Todd Jones who was unscored upon in 8 previous appearances was on the mound. However, you could sense trouble when Jones issued a rare walk to leadoff batter David DeJesus. After all, Todd's success depends on his control. Sure enough, he allowed 2 hits and 2 runs and the Royals tied the game. He actually almost got out of it on a game ending double play ball to shortstop but Ross Gload was just barely safe at first and Mark Teahen scored to send it into extra innings. John Buck then put the Royals ahead 4-3 by belting a solo home run off Fernando Rodney in the 10th and that was the final score.

The Tigers offense could not do much with Gil Meche who is, thus far, making his huge contract look a little more reasonable. Meche pitched 8 innings allowing 3 unearned runs on 6 hits. They did even less against Joakim Soria who recorded 4 strikeouts in 2 shutout innings. The leading Tigers hitters were Curtis Granderson with 3 hits and Placido Polanco and Craig Monroe with 2 apiece. Monroe had put the Tigers ahead with a 2 run single in the 3 run 6th inning.

Eric Jackson also has a nice recap

Analysis

Two key players are becoming just a bit of a concern. First, Fernando Rodney has now allowed 14 base runners in 7 1/3 innings which has resulted in one or more runs in 4 out of his 7 appearances. I still expect him to come around but he has not been sharp yet and it doesn't take a lot for a reliever to have an off season.

The other concern is Gary Sheffield. His .133 batting average does not worry me but his 13 strikeouts in 15 games is a bit alarming. In the games I've seen, he has looked bad chasing a lot more balls than I would expect from him. Since he has never struck out more than 83 times in a season, his current rate is pretty unusual. I'm still confident, he will turn it around but one has to be just a little concerned. about the k rate.

Somebody not to worry about is Jeremy Bonderman who now is 4 for 4 in quality starts despite having no wins to show for it. He allowed just 1 run on 3 hits while striking out 6 and walking nobody in 7 innings. For the season, he has a 2.25 ERA and a 21/3 K/BB ration in 28 innings. This is another example why the win/loss stat for pitchers is simply not very useful.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sad Day for Our Community

Brian Bluhm, a popular member of the Detroit Tigers internet community, was one of the students killed in the horrible shooting at Virginia Tech yesterday. I never met Brian in person but he was an important part of my life over the past several years. The same sentiment is being expressed by hundreds of friends on the blogs and messageboards which make up our community. Our thoughts are with his family today.

Brian, who was 25 years old, was just weeks away from completing a Masters degree in Civil Engineering and starting a promising career in water resources. I had known him throughout most of his undergraduate and graduate years at Virginia Tech. Anybody who has participated on Detroit Tigers messageboards or blogs over the past 6 or 7 years has surely come in contact with Brian. He was usually known on the internet as "estrepe1" and sometimes as VTTigers or BrianB.

Everybody who knew Brian liked him as a person and appreciated his knowledge of the game and of the Tigers. Whenever we saw his name, we knew it would be followed by an insightful and rational comment about the Tigers. When you talked to Brian, you did not talk to an anonymous fan on a messageboard. You talked to a very intelligent, cordial and thoughtful gentleman. He was straightforward and honest and always interested in what you had to say. He was a real person and a real friend to all of us and our community will not be the same without him.

Related Articles and Forums:

There is a memorial thread at MotownSports.

Bill Ferris remembers him at Detroit Tigers Weblog

Danny Knobler's blog

John Sickels Blog

Zachary Herman's Sabers Drawn blog

Ian Casselberry's Bless You Boys blog

Lynn Henning at the Detroit News

The Free Press

MLB.COM

Curtis Granderson

Cedar Rapids Gazette

More Stories and Videos at MotownSports

Monday, April 16, 2007

Rodriguez, Guillen Power Tigers

The Tigers returned home from their early season 10 game road trip and defeated the Royals 12-5. It was nice to get a relatively easy victory after all the nail biters the past week. It was also good to see some offense. Ivan Rodriguez started the scoring with a grandslam off Zack Greinke in the first and added a two run double in the second for 6 RBI total. Carlos Guillen added 4 more RBI for a solo homer in the 4th and a bases loaded double in the 8th.

One of the best things about the offense tonight was that they worked the Royals staff for 8 walks. Gary Sheffield had 3 and Guillen 2 to lead the way. They now have 48 walks in their first 13 games. This comes out to 3.7 per game which is better than the league average of 3.4. They were 13th in the American League in walks last year. Their strikeout to walk ratio of 1.8 is also better than the league average of 2.0. They were last in the league with a 2.6 ratio in 2006 so their early numbers are a good sign.

The Tigers starter tonight was Justin Verlander who allowed 3 runs on 5 hits and no walks in 6 innings and also had 6 strikeouts. They had 12 strikeouts as a team tonight including 3 for Joel Zumaya and 2 for Fernando Rodney. Both looked sharp. Jose Mesa did not look so good allowing 3 of the 4 batters he faced to reach.

Game two of the series will be tomorrow night at 7:05 with Mike Maroth facing Jorge de la Rosa.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Reviewing Tigers Corner and Some Other Items

My brief Sunday tour around the internet begins with Gary Gillette's book Tigers Corner 2007. It is the inaugural edition of what he hopes will be an annual book. It includes a detailed re-cap of the 2006 season, interviews with Ernie Harwell and Dan Dickerson, some sabermetric analysis, articles on Tigers history and lots of other information. Gillette and the other writers, which include Brian Borawski at Tiger Blog, wanted this to be a unique book setting it apart from other annuals and they accomplished their goal. I thought it was a very good read and I'll buy it again next year.

Billfer is doing some amazing things with the enhanced MLB game day data. He's been producing some fascinating charts on pitch location, pitch type, pitch release, etc. In a recent article, he looks at the Jeremy Bonderman/Roy Halladay duel in great detail. Not all of the games are available in the enhanced format but it's something I will now be looking for over the course of the season.

I just finished viewing the Vintage World Series Films DVD which I won in a Detroit Tigers weblog contest. Thanks again to Bill for the kind gift. It features highlights of the Tigers World Series games in 1945, 1968 and 1984. It brought back vivid memories of 1984, distant memories of 1968 and created new images for 1945. The 1945 film was probably the most interesting film because I had never seen extensive footage of that series before. I will watch all three films again frequently. Now, I just need to find a film of the 1935 season somewhere.

Tigers Settle for Series Split

The Tigers ended a very exciting early season 4 game series today by losing 2-1 and settling for a split. Josh Towers stymied the Tigers holding them to 3 hits in 7 2/3 innings this afternoon. The unlucky loser was Nate Robertson who allowed just 2 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in 7 innings.

The winning run scored in the 7th on a mental error by Sean Casey. With Royce Clayton on second and one out, John McDonald singled to right. Casey took the relay from Gary Sheffield (starting in place of Magglio Ordonez who DHed), looked towards third and failed to see that Clayton was coming around to score. Clayton would have been an easy out but Casey held onto the ball and the run scored. Apparently, Casey was looking at the third base coach who was trying to hold up Clayton. After seeing this, his attention towards to McDonald who made it safely to second.

The Tigers opened the scoring in the top of the first when Granderson singled, moved to second when Sheffield was hit by the pitch and came around to score when Towers threw wild and hit Granderson on an attempted pickoff. As Rod Allen remarked, it was the type of aggressive scoring play that would have made Jackie Robinson proud. (More about Jackie Robinson Day from Ian Casselberry at Bless You Boys).

Granderson made only the second error of his career when he threw the ball all the way to backstop in the second inning allowing Lyle Overbay to move up to second after his single. He quickly made up for it though by throwing out Overbay on a perfect thow to the plate ending the inning.

It was a thrilling 4 game series against the Blue Jays that almost reminded one of the two series between these two clubs at the end of 1987. The series started with a one run Tigers victory on Thursday. Friday night was a loss but it was a pitcher's duel for the ages between Jeremy Bonderman and Roy Halladay. Yesterday, the Tigers came from behind with a 4 run 9th. Today was another another one run game. It's a shame these two geogrpahical rivals are done for the season except for one make-up game in September.

The Tigers have finished their 10 game road trip with a 6-4 record. They now go home for 6 games against the Rokals and White Sox. Tomorrow night at 7:05, it will be Justin Verlander against the Royals' Zack Greinke.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Detroit Tigers Prospect Report - 4/14/2007

This is my opening Detroit Tigers prospect report for 2007. During the course of the year, I will be giving statistical updates and other information on the Tigers organization. I will cover all the consensus top prospects as well as other noteworthy perfomers. This report will only be a very small part of the growing network of minor league coverage on the Tigers prospects. To get daily game recaps, check out Matt Wallace's new site, Take 75 North as well as Mike Cassidy's Tigers Minor League Baseball Blog and the Detroit Tigers Weblog. For great ongoing discussion of the minor leagues, go to MotownSports.Com.

With only a handful of games completed, it is impossible to make any conclusions yet. However, I'll kick things off with a look at some of the players who are off to hot starts.

Toledo Mud Hens 3-5

Chris Shelton is trying to get back to the Tigers and is making a good impression so far. He is batting .333/.457/.519 in his first 27 at bats. He has 6 walks but also 9 strikeouts. According to the Toledo Blade, Shelton is batting second in order to get him to concentrate on making contact and using the whole field rather than thinking about power.

Jordan Tata is currently on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. He is supposed to be ready to pitch this week but a pitcher with a sore shoulder is always a concern.


Erie Sea Wolves 2-3

A good year for first baseman Jeff Larish would really raise his stock on the national prospect scene and he is off to a good start. In 5 games, he is 8 for 20 with 2 doubles, 2 home runs and 4 walks.

Third baseman Kody Kirkland is well regarded by some scouts but the results have not been there so far. He showed some power last year but batted just .217. He has 6 hits in his first 16 at bats this year.

Michael Hollimon spent the first two years of his professional career as one of the older players in his league. This year, he is getting tested as he has jumped to levels from low A ball (West Michigan) to AA. He is 5 for 16 with 5 walks.

The 21 year old Jair Jurrjens is still relatively unknown nationally despite an impressive resume. He pitched 4 shutout innings in his first start.

Dallas Trahern has reached the level where finesse pitchers tend to run into trouble but he did fine in his first start going 6 shutout innings.


Lakeland 4-4

I'll be going down to Lakeland at the end of the month and one of the players I'll be watching closely is super prospect Cameron Maybin. Maybin went 6 for 23 with 3 home runs and 3 stolen bases this week. he also had a 10/7 strikeout/walk ratio.

Scouts have raved about Wilken Ramirez's raw ability for a couple of years now but the results have not been good. He has been switched form third base to outfield and is off to a nice start offensively. He is 8 for 21 with a triple and a homer. It's important to remember that he is just 21 and still has time to put it together.

There has been a lot of talk about Andrew Miller starting for the Tigers this year at some point. The results have been mixed so far - one good game and one so so game. He has a 3.38 ERA in 10 2/3 innings.

Burke Badenhop has a 2.45 ERA and has walked nobody in 11 innings over 2 starts.


West Michigan 1-4

Raw toolsy outfielder Gorkys Hernandez is getting his first shot at full season ball this year and is 4 for 13 in 4 games.

First baseman Ryan Strieby is 5 for 19 with two home runs

Chris Cody is a finesse pitcher who did well for Oneonta last year (2.38 ERA in 53 innings). He did well in his first week striking 16 batters in 11 2/3 shutout innings.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Tigers Lose Duel to Blue Jays

In an old fashioned pitcher's duel between Jeremy Bonderman and Roy Halladay, The Tigers lost to the Blue Jays 2-1 in 10 innings tonight. It was a rare game in which both Bonderman and Halladay threw fewer than 100 pitchers through 9 innings and it was tied at one at the end of regulation. Halladay came out to pitch another scoreless inning in the 10th. In the bottom of the inning, Bonderman yielded to Fernando Rodney who gave up the winning run.

Bonderman allowed a home run to Alex Rios on the first pitch of the game and that was it. This game was a little different from the typical fielding indepedent game we usually see from Bonderman. He had only 4 strikeouts, got more air outs than ground outs (13 to 9) and received solid fielding support on some hard hit balls. He was, however, very efficient throwing just 96 pitches, 68 of them for strikes. He walked nobody and allowed just 6 hits. It was a very impressive performance.

It looked like he could have gone another inning especially with the bottom of Blue Jays order coming up in the 10th. However, Jim Leyland decided not to risk a high pitch count so early in the season and brought in Rodney. It was an agonizing bottom of the 10th as the Blue Jays loaded the bases on an infield hit and two bunt singles. The two bunts were very well placed but in both cases it seemed like it would have been better if Rodney would have allowed the infielders to make the plays. The winning run then scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Rios.

Offensively, the the Tigers had a new line-up tonight with Ivan Rodriguez batting third and everyone else moving down one spot. The reasoning may have been that Pudge came into the game 10 for 21 versus Halladay in his career. I'm not a big fan of small sample matchups but perhaps Jim Leyland felt there was a real reason for Pudge's success against Halladay. It didn't work tonight as Rodriguez went 0 for 4 and the Tigers managed only 6 hits. The only run scored on a Magglio Ordonez homer in the second.

So a classic duel ended badly for the Tigers but it was still a pleasure to watch two of the better pitchers in the league battle pitch for pitch for nine plus innings. Game 3 will be at 1:07 tomorrow when Chad Durbin gets his second start for the Tigers and AJ Burnett goes for the Jays.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Inge Breaks Out, Tigers Win Opener

The Tigers took the opening game of their four game series with the Blue Jays 5-4 tonight. Brandon Inge, who came into the game batting .040, started the scoring with a long solo home run to left in the third. He later knocked in 2 more runs with a single and a sacrifice fly. He had really been looking bad at the plate so hopefully this gets him back on track.

Other Tigers with two hits were Sean Casey and Placido Polanco. Polanco, who has been one of the few consistent Tiger hitters so far this year, raised his batting average to .375. He also got a double for his first extra base hit of the season.

Mike Maroth allowed 9 hits, 4 extra base hits and a couple of walks and was in trouble almost every inning. However, he pitched well with runners on base and managed to hold the Jays to 2 runs in 6 innings. Jose Mesa pitched a scoreless 7th but put the first two runners on in the 8th. Zumaya allowed both runners to score thanks, in part, to a wild pitch and a bloop double. He was dominant against the last 4 batters though and notched his first save of the year.

Gary Sheffield and Magglio Ordonez switched places with Sheffield going to right and Ordonez DHing tonight. I think the move was made for a couple of reasons. First Sheffield is really struggling (batting .103 for the season) and perhaps it was thought that a change might do him good. Another reason was probably to give Ordonez a rest. Playing 4 consecutive games on artificial turf would likely not be good on his knee. I'm wondering if Guillen might get a day off or DH appearance in this series as well.

Pudge Rodriguez also got the day off and Mike Rabelo had his first test as the backup catcher. It went without incident for the most part. He did do a nice job blocking a pitch that bounced in front of him and then made a strong throw to second to get Greg Zaun attempting to move up in the second inning. Most of the pitch calling seemed to be coming from the dugout as I noticed him looking over there frequently.

It must have been nice for them to get a chance to play indoors after all the miserable weather they have endured so far. Game two of the series will feature a rematch between Jeremy Bonderman and Roy Halladay who also faced each other on opening day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Craig Monroe Does it Again

In a game that resembled the deadball era more than the high powered modern era, the Orioles and Tigers were scoreless going into the 12th inning. Unlike an early 1900s matchup with George Mullin and Jack Powell each pitching complete games, this game featured 12 hurlers - starters Justin Verlander and Adam Loewen and a host of relievers. Still, it was an amazing display of pitching by both sides. Finally, with everyone waiting for Ty Cobb or Sam Crawford to get a big hit, Craig Monroe brought the game back to the 21st Century with a grandslam to center field off Kurt Birkins in the 12th inning. The Tigers then held on to win it 4-1.

Verlander pitched a strong 7 innings allowing just 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 5. He was followed by Fernando Rodney and Wil Ledezma who combined to pitch 4 one hit innings with 6 strikeouts. There were very few threats through the first 11. The biggest scares came in the 8th when a Brandon Inge throwing error put runners on first and second and in the 11th when Monroe caught a Kevin Millar smash just short of the wall.

The only Oriole run scored on a balk by Bobby Seay in the bottom of the 12th. Todd Jones then came in and got the final out to save it.

Offensively, the Tigers continued to struggle until they finally broke throke through in the 12th. Ivan Rodriguez led off with a single, Magglio Ordonez got a two out infield single and Carlos Guillen walked setting up Monroe's slam. This was Monroe's third hit of the game as he had singled and doubled earlier. Rodriguez, Ordonez and Guillen each added two hits.

The Tigers now leave the rain and cold of Batimore and head to Toronto where they will play indoors for 4 games. So much for the deadball era. It will be Mike Maroth versus Tomo Ohka tomorrow at 7:05.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cold Weather Shutting Down Offense

Lots of fans are grumbling about the Tigers' lack of offense so far and no doubt the bats are cold in the ealy going. Coming into tonight's game, they were batting .231/.302/.362 which pales in comparison to their .274/.329/.449 line for all of 2006. The only players who are hitting consistently well right now are Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco and Pudge Rodriguez.

Players don't want to blame the lack of hitting on the cold weather but it's really difficult to hit in the awful conditions in which they've played so far. With bad weather all around the country, the offense is down everywhere as fantasy league owners will testify. The American League is hitting a collective .251/.323/.386 so far this year. In 2007, the league hit .275/.339/.437. Furthermore, the average American League team is averaging 4.3 runs per game as opposed to 5 runs per game in 2006.

There is no way to prove that the cold weather is responsible for the lack of offense but that is my theory and most people seem to agree with me. I doubt they would have created unlively balls for the season! I think we'll get back to modern day home run derby ball as soon as the weather warms up.

Tigers Scratch Out Win Versus O's

The Tigers didn't do much hitting again today but they came away with a 3-1 victory over the Orioles. Starters Nate Robertson and Jaret Wright dueled to a scoreless tie through 5 innings but the Tigers finally broke through in the sixth for two runs without hitting the ball out of the infield. First, the Tigers loaded the bases on two infield hits and a walk. Then , with one out, Magglio Ordonez hit what looked like an inning ending double play grounder to shortstop but second baseman Brian Roberts threw the ball wild to first and the Tigers scored two runs on the play.

The Tigers scored another run in the 8th on Granderson's second double of the game, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly by Polanco. It's not always obvious when a player swings for a sacrifice fly but it was clear what Polanco was trying to do and it was well executed.

Meanwhile, Nate Robertson was strong again shutting out the Orioles on 4 hits and 1 walks over 7 1/3 innings. Joel Zumaya came in and allowed his first run of the year, a home run to Corey Patterson in the eighth. Todd Jones got them 1-2-3 in the 9th for an easy save.

Notes:
  • Neifi Perez replaced the slumping Brandon Inge at Third base and managed an infield hit to the pitcher to lead off the 6th inning rally.
  • Polanco went 2 for 3 to raise his batting average to .448. With no walks, no extra base hits and one sacrifice fly, he now has a bizarre .448/.433/.448 batting line.
  • The Tigers had some problems on the bases tonight as Carlos Guillen was picked off in embarrassing fashion and later caught stealing. Polanco was also caught stealing on a strike out throw out double play in the first.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Durbin Struggles in Tiger Debut

In his first start as a Tiger and first major league start since 2004, Chad Durbin allowed 6 runs and 9 hits in 4 2/3 innings in a 6-2 loss to the Orioles. He pitched two strong innings before allowing 4 runs in the third and 2 more in the 5th. This wasn't what the Tigers were hoping for in their quest to replace the injured Kenny Rogers but I think it's safe to say he'll get at least one more start before they try something else.

What happens if Durbin fails to improve in his next start or two? It sounded like plan B was Andrew Miller but that would likely depend on how well he is throwing for Lakeland. Ideally, he gets more than a couple of minor league starts. Other possibilities include Zach Miner who is currently pitching for Toledo and Wil Ledezma. Ledezma pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings today and is now unscored upon in 4 innings. He would seem like the best candidate except that I think they'd really like to leave him in the bullpen if they can. Hopefully Durbin postpones the fifth starter decision with a a stronger start next Saturday versus the Blue Jays.

Offensively, the Tigers continued their early season team hitting slump. Magglio Ordonez and Placido Polanco led the 7 hit attack with 2 hits apiece. Polanco, who is one of the few Tiger hitters off to a fast start, is now 11 for 26. Since he has no walks nor extra base hits, he has an usual batting line of .423/.423/.423. On the negative side, Brandon Inge went hitless again today and is now 0 for 20 with 8 strikeouts.

Tomorrow night, it will be Nate Robertson versus Jaret Wright in game two of the series.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Erie Sea Wolves Preview

The Erie Sea Wolves were supposed to open up on Thursday but have yet to play due to inclement weather. Once they do get started, fans will see a roster stocked with pretty good prospects. The SeaWolves do not have any young phenoms like Cameron Maybin or Andrew Miller (at least not on the opening roster) but 10 of the top 30 Tigers prospects according to Baseball America will start off in Erie this year. Plus, Maybin and Miller are expected to join the team at some point so it should be a good year for prospect watching in Erie. Some of the top prospects are listed below:

Jair Jurrjens is unheralded but has moved quickly through the system and pitched solidly for 12 starts with Erie at age 20 last year. He had a 2.68 ERA and 112/31 strikeout/walk ratio in 141 innings for Lakeland and Erie combined. He has developed into the Tigers second best pitching prospect behind Miller. He throws in the low 90s and has reached the mid 90s with his fastball. He also has a decent change-up and curve and has very good control. I would expect him to reach AAA Toledo fairly quickly.

Jeff Larish is a 24 year old left-handed power hitting first baseman who batted .258/.379/.460 for Lakeland last year. There is little question about his power and he has the patience to draw a lot of walks. He also is good defensively. The only question is whether he'll make enough contact at the upper levels. If he has a good year in AA this year, he'll become a very interesting prospect for an organization which needs a power hitting first baseman.

Eulogio De La Cruz is a hard throwing 23 year old right-hander whose big attraction is a fastball which has reached 100 MPH on occasion. He also has a sharp curve which can be very tough. He is still very raw however and his command and control do not match his stuff at this point. He has spent most of his time in the bullpen but pitched better as a starter last year. So, he'll be a starter this year but his ultimate role is still up in the air.

Dallas Trahern is a 21 year old right-hander with an excellent slider and an uncanny ability to induce ground balls (a 3.3 GB/FB ration for Lakeland last year). He also showed good control walking just 41 batters in 145 innings. The problem is a very low strikeout rate - just 4.8 K per 9 innings in his career. The results have been a 3.18 career ERA but it remains to be seen if he can continue to get away with such a low K Rate at higher levels. By all accounts he has outstanding make-up which should allow him to make the most of his ability.

Other prospects to watch in Erie this year include pitchers P.J. Finigan and Kyle Sleeth, second baseman Mike Hollimon, third baseman Kody Kirkland and outfielders Matt Joyce and Clete Thomas. The complete roster is listed below. More roster details can be found at the Sea Wolves official site. For more news and discussion of the Sea Wolves, check out motownsports.com and Mike Cassidy's Tigers Minor League Blog.

Erie Sea Wolves Opening Day Roster

Pitchers
Jair Jurrjens
Eulogio De La Cruz
Dallas Trahern
Eddie Bonine
Jon Connolly
P.J. Finigan
Jeremy Johnson
Ian Ostlund
Danny Zell
Kyle Sleeth
Kevin Ardoin
Andrew Kown

Catchers
Steve Torrealba
Joel Roa

Infielders
1B Jeff Larish
2B Mike Hollimon
SS Brent Dlugach
3B Kody Kirkland
UT Nick McIntyre
UT Adam Haley

Outfielders
Matt Joyce
Clete Thomas
Jackson Melian
Andres Torres

Toledo Mud Hens Preview

The Toledo Mud Hens have started off the season with two losses to Louisville - 5 to 4 on Thursday and 8-2 last night. In last night's game, Virgil Vazquez had 8 strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings but also allowed 4 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks. The Mudhens had only 3 hits, one of them by Chris Shelton who also walked. Shelton is 2 for 8 to start the season.

Two of the better prospects to watch at Toledo this year are outfielder Brent Clevlen and pitcher Jordan Tata. The 23 year old Clevlen appeared in 31 games for the Tigers in 2006 and batted .282 with 3 home runs and 6 extra base hits in 39 at bats. However, he did most of that in his first week up and was less successful playing for Erie where he batted .230 with 138 strikeouts in 395 at bats. Clevlen has good fielding skills and can play center field but he is more of a corner outfielder. Offensively, he has good power and can draw walks but he strikes out too much and didn't make enough contact last year. he is still a good prospect but he needs to regain the stroke he had in Lakeland in 2005 where he batted .302/.387/.484.

Tata also appeared briefly for the Tigers last year but spent most of the year in Toledo where he compliled a 3.84 ERA in 122 innings. Although he is now 25 years old, last year was his first year above A ball so needs more work at AAA. He has a fastball with good movement and a good knuckle curve but needs to work on his change-up. He may end up as a reliever but the Tigers still see him as a starter.

Other players to watch at Toledo this year include first baseman Chris Shelton and pitchers Zach Miner and Virgil Vasquez. The complete roster is listed below. More roster details can be found at the Mud Hens official site. For more news and discussion of the Mud Hens, check out motownsports.com and Mike Cassidy's Tigers Minor League Blog.


Toledo Mud Hens Opening Day Roster

Pitchers
Jordan Tata
Virgil Vasquez
Zach Miner
Dennis Tankersley
Yorman Bazardo
Preston Larrison
Aquilino Lopez
Jason Karnuth
Ron Chiavacci
Tim Brydak
Vic Darensbourg
Craig Dingman (DL)
Joey Eischlen (DL)

Catchers
Dane Sardinha
Andrew Graham

Infielders
1B Chris Shelton
2B Kevin Hooper
SS Ramon Santiago
3B Mike Hessman
UT Jack Hannahan
UT Chris Maples

Outfielders
David Espinosa
Brent Clevlen
Timo Perez
Ryan Raburn

Ducksnorts Review

I recently received a copy of the Ducksnorts 2007 Baseball Annual. It is a book about the Padres and has little to do with the Tigers but I wanted to bring it to your attention anyway. The author is Geoff Young who is one of the first people I met in the virtual world of the internet. This was back in the mid 1990s on the AOL messageboards and he was actually blogging back then (although it was not called blogging). He is one of the best baseball blog writers and you can see more of his work on Ducksnorts (a Padres blog) and Knuckle Curve (a baseball blog).

The Ducksnorts Annual recaps the Padres 2006 season in detail, includes pieces about the history of the Padres among other things. It also includes some articles on team building which are of general baseball interest. Geoff is an excellent writer who does a great job of incorporating both sabermetrics and baseball observation into his book. I found it to be a very good read even though I'm not a Padre fan. I bought the paper version but it can also be bought as a download.

Friday, April 06, 2007

More Sloppy Play in Loss to Royals

The Tigers were happy to leave cold, grey and windy Michigan and hoped for slightly milder weather in Missouri. Instead, they were greeted in Kansas City by more cold, more wind and a chill factor in the mid 20s. Players were visibly uncomfortable and many wore hoods to fight off the miserable conditions. Magglio Ordonez went so far as to wear a ski mask in right field. The result was another rather sloppy game and a 3-1 loss to the Royals.

The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the first against Justin Verlander when Ordonez turned a probable single off the bat of David DeJesus into three bases. DeJesus then scored on a grounder by Mark Grudielanek. It sure has been an adventurous week for Ordonez and some of the other Tiger defenders.

Verlander allowed no more runs and left after 6 innings with the score tied 1-1. He was uncharacteristically wild allowing 5 walks in the 4th and 5th innings. Fortunately, he pitched his way out of jams just as he did through most of last season.

Jose Mesa did not impress in his Tigers debut allowing hits to the first three batters he faced in the 7th inning. He was not helped by Craig Monroe who misjudged a wind blown fly ball which dropped in front of him for a single plating the second run of the inning. Wil Ledezma took over and pitched a strong 1 2/3 innings allowing just a walk.

The Tigers were held to just 5 hits by Jorge de la Rosa, Joakim Soria and David Riske. They scored their only run in the second when Carlos Guillen and Sean Casey walked, Guillen stole third and Monroe hit a sacrifice fly. Tigers fans were expecting a little more off the Royals staff but it was not the Tigers night.

More disappointing than the offense though was the sloppy defense. When the Tigers were playing good ball last year, defense was usually an important part of it. It's only been three games but so far their team fielding has not been too sharp. Even the usual stellar Pudge Rodriguez has already allowed three steals, failed to block an errant pitch and did not attempt to double off a stranded runner after a pop out. Inge has had problems throwing the ball but has been helped out by Casey on a few occasions.

Billfer also commented on the fielding problems earlier. I'm not concerned yet though. It's still very early and I'm hoping they'll get it back together when the conditions improve which should be soon.

Mike Maroth will face Gil Meche tomorrow at 2:10 in game two of the series. The forecast is 42 degrees and sunny. That's not ideal but it's an improvement over the last couple of games.

West Michigan Whitecaps Preview

The West Michigan Whitecaps opened their season with a 3-2 loss to Dayton last night. Chris Cody pitched shutout ball for 5 innings allowing 6 hits and 2 walks and striking out 5 for the Whitecaps. Ryan Strieby hit a solo home run and Deik Scram had two hits in the losing effort.

Two of the most interesting Whitecaps this year are Gorkys Hernandez and Scott Sizemeore. The 19 year old Hernandez had an eye opening debut batting .327/.356/.463 in 205 at bats for the GCL Tigers last year. Hernandez is very raw and has a long way to go before we start talking about the majors but he probably has the biggest upside of any Tiger prospect other than Cameron Maybin. He is very fast, runs the bases well and covers a lot of ground in center field. He also has the potential to develop some decent power. Like most 19 year olds, he needs to work on his plate discipline.

Sizemore batted .327/.394/.435 as a shortstop for Oneonta last year. He is playing second base for the Whitecaps this season and that will likely be his permanent position. He has good contact and on base skills and hits for some gap power. He projects as a good offensive middle infielder with the question being his defense. By most accounts, he has only average defensive tools but played fairly well at shortstop last year.

Some of the other players to watch at West Michigan this year are outfielder Brennan Boesch, first baseman Ryan Strieby and pitcher Jonah Nickerson. The complete roster has been extracted from an article by Brian Vanochten of the Grand Rapids press and is listed below. For more news and discussion of the Flying Tigers check out motownsports.com and Mike Cassidy's Tigers Minor League Blog.


Starting Line-up

LF Deik Scram
2B Scott Sizemore
RF Brennan Boesch
1B Ryan Strieby
DH Michael Bertram
3B Santo De Leon
C James Skelton
CF Gorkys Hernandez
SS Audy Ciriaco

Bench
C Jeff Kunkel
OF Jeramy Laster
INF Louis Ott
OF Brandon Timm

Starting pitchers
LHP Chris Cody
RHP Lauren Gagnier
LHP Duane Below
RHP Angel Castro
RHP Jonah Nickerson

Bullpen
RHP Randor Bierd
LHP Ed Clelland
RHP Casey Fien
RHP Jeff Gerbe
RHP Brett Jensen
RHP Phil Napolitan
RHP Josh Rainwater

Lakeland Flying Tigers Preview

The Lakeland Flying Tigers opened up their inaugural season under their new name last night with a rain shortend 5 inning 3-0 shutout over Tampa. Andrew Miller pitched 5 innings allowing 3 hits and no walks and struck out 3. Justin Justice hit a solo home run and Michael Hernandez and Ryan Roberson added RBI doubles. Cameron Maybin, who played center field and batted third, was hitless in 2 at bats.

It will be a great season for Lakeland fans as they get a firsthand look at two of the best Tigers prospects in recent memory. Cameron Maybin is a five tool prospect who some think will be starting in Detroit as early as 2008. Maybin has great speed, quickly developing power and is an excellent defender. The only facet of his game that really needs improvent is plate discipline . He just recently turned 20 years old so that is expected to come in time. Chris Knight at MLBfantasyadvice.com recently did a brief interview with Maybin and discovered that he is a big fan of Ryan Howard and Alex Gordon.

The other phenom to follow at Lakeland this year is Andrew Miller who already appeared for the Tigers in 2006. The 22 year old Miller is a hard throwing left-hander with an outstanding slider but lacks a change-up. He also needs to work on his control as he walked 10 batters in 10 innings as a reliever for the Tigers last season. As Ryan McConnel at MILB.COM points out, both Miller and Maybin will be on the fast track and at the very least should reach AA Erie some time during the summer.

Other players to watch at Lakeland this year are third baseman Ronnie Bourquin, outfielder Wilkin Ramirez and pitchers Burke Badenhop and Sendy Vazquez. The complete roster is listed below. More roster details can be found at the Flying Tigers website. For more news and discussion of the Flying Tigers check out motownsports.com and Mike Cassidy's Tigers Minor League Blog.

Pitchers
Andrew Miller
Burke Badenhop
Lucas French
Sendy Vasquez
Matthew Righter
Freddy Dolsi
Anthoney Tomey
Paul Hammond
Ricky Steik
Matt Rusch
Gabriel Benitez
Eleazor Aponte

Catchers
Dusty Ryan
Adrian Casanova

Infielders
1B Ryan Roberson
1B Pedro Cotto
2B Wil Rhymes
2B Ovandy Suero
SS Matt Haske
SS Miguel Linares
3B Ronnie Bourquin

Outfield
Wilkin Ramirez
Cameron Maybin
Justin Justice
Michael Hernandez

DL
Orlando Perdomo RP
Joe Tucker OF

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tigers Hold on to Win 10-9

On a brutally cold and windy day at Comerica Park, the Tigers exploded for 8 runs in the third inning and added another in the 4th to take a 9-0 lead over the Blue Jays. It looked like it would be an easy game for the Tigers but it didn't turn out that way. They took a 10-2 lead into the 8th but then it got really sloppy and they narrowly missed an embarrassing loss when the Blue Jays scored 7 runs in the 8th. Todd Jones, who didn't figure to get into this game after their quick start, managed to close it out in the 9th for a 10-9 victory.

Granderson led off the 3rd with a walk, stole second, scored the first run and then then seemingly broke the game open with a grandslam in his second at bat of the inning. Granderson later knocked in another run with a triple. Ivan Rodriguez (4), Placido Polanco (3) and Carlos Guillen (2) also had multiple hit games. One of the best things they did offensively was draw 9 walks as they continue to show patience against Blue Jay hurlers. Magglio Ordonez had 3 walks (along with a single) and Sean Casey walked twice.

Nate Robertson, who got some rare run support, allowed 2 runs in 5 2/3 innings and got the win. Jason Grilli and Fernando did not fare as well and were responsible for the 7 run 8th. Grilli (5 hits, 5 runs) did not pitch as poorly as the box score indicates as he was a victim of 3 bloop singles and some poor defense by Magglio Ordonez. Rodney struggled for the second straight outing allowing 2 runs on 3 hits.

The Tigers and Blue Jays play the rubber game of the three game series tomorrow afternoon. It will be Justin Verlander against Gustavo Chacin.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Opening Day

Winter is over and the day we've been waiting for since last October is finally here. It's opening day, the official first day of spring for baseball fans. Whether you will be at the game, staying at home watching on TV or trying follow the game at work on a radio or internet scoreboard, this is our national holiday. It will be the beginning of seven months of pleasure regardless of the outcome.

Pregame:

The Tigers open up at home versus the Blue Jays. It's rainy and cold where I am in Massachusetts but it should be a beautiful day in Detroit. Jeremy Bonderman is facing Roy Halladay in what should be a great matchup between two of the best pitchers in the league. I'll do my best to listen while I work. Here are the probable starting line-ups:

Curtis Granderson, cf
Placido Polanco, 2b
Gary Sheffield, dh
Magglio Ordonez, rf
Carlos Guillen, ss
Pudge Rodriguez, c
Sean Casey, 1b
Craig Monroe, lf
Brandon Inge, 3b

Reed Johnson, LF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Troy Glaus, 3B
Alex Rios, RF
Gregg Zaun, C
Aaron Hill, 2B
Royce Clayton, SS

Curtis Granderson is also excited about opening day and he talks about it in his blog.

Postgame:

Most of you saw or heard the Tigers lose 5-3 in the 1oth inning when Fernando Rodney loaded the bases and allowed a two run single to Troy Glaus. I heard the game at work so I'll point you toward Mack Avenue Kurt who watched the game on television and has a nice wrap-up. The box score can be found at MLB.COM.

Here are my thoughts:
  • One thing that caught my attention was Granderson getting a two strike single in his first bat. That is noteworthy only because he's been working on his two strike approach all spring and that was a good start. He doubled later in the game.
  • It was good to see Bonderman battle back after a rough first inning. He retired his last 13 out 14. It's unclear exactly how much he used his new change-up. It sounded like he didn't use it much but Jim Price mentioned that he threw it a couple of times for balls. I'm hoping he sitcks with it even if he does not throw it often.
  • Gary Sheffield made his much awaited Tigers debut and managed to knock in two runs without a hit. He had two sacrifice flies. Obviously, I want to see him do more than get sacrifice flies but it's probably good for some of the less disciplined hitters on the team to see him get runs home against a tough pitcher without the benefit of a hit.
  • Jim Leyland made his first substitution of the year in the 9th inning. After Casey reached on a one out walk , Neifi Perez came into to pinch run and nearly got picked off. Perez stayed in the game to play shortstop and Carlos Guillen switched to first base. This was probably the right move in a tie game going into extra innings but it makes me a little nervous. If Casey gets hurt and has to miss a few games, Perez to short and Guillen to first is not something I'd want to see. Hopefully, Leyland will have enough confidence in Thames to let him play first in that instance.

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