Morrison, Stohr Work Back to Health
Two of the Tigers hard throwing relief prospects, Michael Morrison and Tyler Stohr, aren't experiencing the typical joys of the off-season. There's no getting to see family and friends after a long season away. There's no traveling or down time for these two. It's all about getting healthy after Tommy John Surgery, and making sure they are ready for the start of the 2011 season.
Stohr went under the knife for ligament replacement surgery on June 11th, and Morrison followed just a week later, knocking them out for the entire 2010 season. Coming back from surgery isn't easy. It is a tedious process that only the strong and determined survive, and the early returns for both of these youngsters is that they are set on being a survivor.
"My arm is feeling great," exclaimed Stohr in an interview earlier this week. "I've made lots more progress than I expected at 21 weeks. I'm throwing four days a week, up to about 90-feet, and I don't have to hold back. I can let it fly."
Morrison is just a week behind Stohr in his rehab, and both pitchers are scheduled to get their first work on the bump around the beginning of December, before they break for the holidays.
"I can't wait to get on the mound," said Stohr. "Everything is going really well; better than I expected. As it stands now, I think things look pretty good for me being back at full strength for spring training."
Getting both Stohr and Morrison back on the hill for the 2011 minor league season would be a nice coup for the Tigers, as they suffered a rash of pitching injuries in 2010. Both pitchers are hard-throwers with some potential to be big league relievers.
Ben Guez may have been a late addition to the AFL, but that doesn't mean he wasn't excited.
"I was asking around to everyone, trying to get into fall or winter ball," noted Guez. "I really wanted to come out here and play in Arizona."
Through a sequence of events that included an injury to Ryan Strieby, and another opportunity for Andy Dirks, Guez ‘s wish was granted, as he was assigned to the AFL as one of the outfielders on the Surprise squad.
In just a short amount of time, Guez has taken the opportunity and run with it, posting an impressive .308/.400/.641 line with two doubles, and triple, and three home runs in just eleven games.
"I need to work on having quality at-bats," Guez said when asked what his goals were in the AFL. "Obviously I want to hit well and show people what I can do, but I need to have productive at-bats, sometimes productive outs. The last piece for me is the mental approach; having it every day. That's the last piece to the puzzle for me, and something I can work on out here."
Also showing well in the early games of the AFL is third baseman Francisco Martinez. An aggressive assignment for now 20-year old prospect, Martinez is handling himself just fine. In only 13 games, Martinez has already collected four doubles and a triple, and his .289/.325/.447 line is only a glimpse of his potential on the field.
"He's coming much quicker than I thought he would," said a veteran NL scout that's seen him several times this fall. "There's something in there, something that gives him a chance to be a special player."
At the opposite end of the spectrum, shortstop Cale Iorg has had a bit of a rough go this fall. Iorg is hitting only .190/.277/.357 in 11 games, splitting time with Cardinals prospect Peter Kozma. All eight of Iorg's hits have come in three multi-hit efforts, including one Wednesday where he went 2-for-4 with a stolen base.
"He's really hitting the ball pretty well right now," said the NL scout. "His numbers are awful, but he's stinging it. He's hit quite a few balls that have turned into web gems or been right at guys. The defense hasn't been affected though. He's still brilliant out there with the glove."
On the mound, none of the Tigers pitchers have set the world on fire, but there have been flashes of their potential. Lefty reliever Matt Hoffman continues to try and control his new-found velocity. Getting up to 98 in once recent start, Hoffman's command has yet to catch up with his uptick in speed.
Brendan Wise may have a 5.63 ERA, but save for one outing where he allowed three earned (four total) runs in just one-third of an inning he has been quite solid out of the Surprise bullpen.
The same can be said for right-hander Chance Ruffin. Much like Wise, Ruffin has had one bad outing (three runs in two-third of an inning) and been very good outside of that.
"[Ruffin's] going to move quick," said an AL scout. "He's got good stuff, good makeup, and he just gets it done. I'm not worried about the walks right now. How long has it been since he's pitched regularly? He'll be fine."
Weinhardt Closing in Puerto Rico
Right-hander Robbie Weinhardt has taken his talents to Puerto Rico this winter (pardon the Lebron James play there) in an attempt to make some improvements and compete for a roster spot in Detroit to start the 2011 season.
"The Tigers asked me toward the end of the season what I thought about playing winter ball in Puerto Rico," said Weinhardt earlier this week. "I told them I would be interested in playing. They wanted me to work on pitching out of the stretch and keep working on my slider."
Not only is Weinhardt working on those things, but he is getting experience pitching in high leverage situations, which could help him become more versatile in the big leagues next year.
"I was told the day before the season started that I would be closing here," said Weinhardt. "Working in high leverage situations can be beneficial in many ways for me. I like the pressure!"
Weinhardt will pitch in Puerto Rico until right before Thanksgiving, at which point he will return to the states and prepare to report to Lakeland early in 2011.
Outfielder Andy Dirks is having his way with Dominican League pitchers, posting a .333/.403/.636 line with three triples in 10 games….Casper Wells has started to pick things up in his own right, going eight for his last twenty, with three doubles and a triple, after starting the fall in an 0-for-13 slide….Brayan Villarreal has allowed only one run in 13 2/3 innings in Venezuela, allowing just eight hits and striking out nine, though he has walked seven….Closer prospect Lester Oliveros has had a rough time so far this off-season, getting tagged for six runs (four earned) in just 3 1/3 innings. He has allowed five walks and struck out four.