TigsTown MLN: Slowing Down

The fall and winter leagues in both the US and Latin America are much more a sprint than a marathon, and as we approach Thanksgiving, many Tigers players are starting to wind down and head home. Check inside for updates on Casper Wells, Cale Iorg, Chance Ruffin, and others.

Wells' Dominican Play Ends Early

Just as he seemed to be getting into a groove, Casper Wells' season in the Dominican Winter League came to an end. Over his final five games for Leones del Escogido, Wells had gone 8-for-20 with three doubles and a triple, while driving in two runs.

Though he was already slated to come back to the United States a week later, Wells' untimely departure against Licey on November 3, was not in the cards.

After hitting a groundball off of fellow Detroit Tiger Alfredo Figaro, Wells was hustling down the line to beat out the throw from Licey shortstop Emilio Bonifacio, when he "stepped on the bag wrong and tweaked [his] knee."

Wells promptly returned to the US and underwent an MRI this week. With the results of the MRI read yesterday in New York, Wells learned that he has what is called "jumper's knee."

The diagnosis will not require surgery, but rather physical therapy to "strengthen it up and knock out the inflammation" as Wells put it.

Depending how his physical therapy progresses, Wells would still like to return to API in Arizona, where he trained last year, prior to reporting to Lakeland for spring training.

Regardless of the rest of his off-season plans, Wells and his knee should be poised to enter spring training with a strong chance to win an Opening Day roster spot in Detroit.

Other AFL Notes

A lot of people believe it is how you respond following difficult times that in the end, speaks volumes of your ability and character. If that is the case, then shortstop Cale Iorg is proving to be of the highest character, and a very talented baseball player to boot.

After starting out his second AFL season with the hits coming few and far between, Iorg has turned it on over the last seven games. Over that span, he has at least one hit in every contest (including six multi-hit games), and is in the midst of a mind boggling 13-for-22 (.591 batting average) run that also boasts a double, a triple, a home run, six RBI, four walks, and four stolen bases without being caught.

It is difficult to expect that Iorg can maintain even half of this sudden offensive outburst, but it is not difficult to see that the talent and character exist within him to be a big league ball player.

Iorg's teammate on the left side of the Rafters' infield, Francisco Martinez, has seen his hot start fade, but he is still impressing scouts at just 20-years old, in a league with an average age far greater than that.

"Tools aren't the problem for [Martinez]," said one AL scout. "He can run. He can hit. He can drive the ball. He has hands. He just needs polish, and a lot of it."

Martinez's line sits at .278/.304/.389 in 17 AFL contests, and while those are rather pedestrian triple-slash numbers, this trip wasn't as much about performance, as it was experience for the third baseman that won't turn 21 until the 2011 minor league season approaches its close.

Also gaining valuable experience is hard-throwing left-hander Matt Hoffman. After stopping at three levels during the 2010 regular season, Hoffman is in the process of learning to harness his new-found velocity.

After a stretch early in the AFL season where he gave up six runs in five outings (6 1/3 innings), Hoffman has settled down a bit and held the opposition scoreless in three of his last four appearances. The scoreless outings still aren't coming easy for Hoffman, with four hits and three walks in his last 2 1/3 innings pitched, but its all about baby steps for a pitcher that turned 22 just yesterday.

One scout that has seen several of Hoffman's fall outings – both good and bad, summed him up this way, "I love the arm strength. If he can get it in the zone more, I really like him in the bullpen. There's something there."

Liga Paralela Notes

Though he is rarely talked about among the better Tigers prospects in Venezuela, outfielder Eugenio Suarez is doing everything he can to grab your attention. After a very solid VSL season that put him in position to possibly come stateside for spring training in 2011, Suarez is doing as much as he can to make that possibility a reality.

Hitting every day near the top of the Tigers Liga Paralela lineup, Suarez was posting a whopping .417/.520/.631 in 28 games. Aside from leading the circuit in batting average, his line hides the fact that he is currently sitting in the top five in the league in hits, runs, and total bases, while sitting just outside the top five in RBI.

At just 19-years old Suarez should make his stateside debut next summer. Though he has yet to be considered a top notch prospect, his quickness, hitting ability, and defensive versatility could craft him into someone to keep an eye on.

Currently standing with a 10-18 record, the Tigers are hopeful that the addition of two experienced stateside players will help boost their record and get a winning streak going.

Shortstop Hernan Perez and outfielder Avisail Garcia have both joined the team in recent days, and they are already making their presence felt. Perez has two singles and two doubles in his first two games, while Garcia also has four hits, and has wasted no time blasting his first home run and driving in four teammates.

Garcia joins the club after seeing action in five games with Caribes de Anzoategui in the Venezuelan Winter League. In 13 at-bats for the club, he picked up one hit.

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