Erie MLN: Turner, Relievers Shining

After allowing one earned run in six and 2/3 innings, while striking out seven in the Erie SeaWolves' 5-1 win over the Reading Phillies Monday, starting pitcher Jacob Turner has carved out a spot for himself as the team's ace.

Even though he has yet to register a win yet.

Turner, rated as the No. 1 prospect in the Tigers' organization by TigsTown, was at it again Monday night, striking out seven to increase his season total to 20 during the span of 19 2/3 innings while lowering his earned run average to 1.83. Although his record remains untouched, the 19-year-old and his mid-90s fastball could be ready for a move up, sooner or later.

Meanwhile, the SeaWolves find themselves atop the Eastern League Western Division standings with a modest 6-5 record. Inconsistency has plagued Erie in all aspects of the game including weather, as the SeaWolves have had to put up with a pair of rainouts to this point.

Offensive disparity

After beginning the season 0-for-8, Jamie Johnson seems to have picked it up and is swinging a hot bat. The 23-year-old center fielder snapped an eight-game hitting streak Monday after tallying a blistering .342 average during the streak.

Despite collecting just three home runs in 122 games at West Michigan last year, Johnson is leading the Wolves with a pair of bombs in his first two weeks. In addition to home runs, Johnson is also tops with eight RBIs, five doubles, nine runs and 26 total bases.

Johnson continues to maintain moderate success in terms of batting average despite the added power. He is currently batting .283 off the heels of a .284 average in 2010.

In addition to Johnson, Michael Bertram and Bryan Pounds have been the only consistent contributors for Erie this season.

Bertram is putting together an intriguing season thus far, especially for a first baseman.

In ten games this season, Bertram has compiled a .345 average, but has recorded just a single RBI, and has yet to hit one out of the ball park.

However, the 27-year-old is fourth in the Eastern League with a .444 on-base percentage. Bertram has benefitted from a more patient approach at the plate that has resulted in six walks to go along with a strikeout total of eight (a modest number considering Erie's 88 K's rank third in the Eastern League).

Pounds is putting together a solid offensive season on the opposite corner of the infield.

After spending time on three teams a year ago, Pounds seems to be settled in at Erie with some clutch hitting performances as evidence. Pounds was the hero of the SeaWolves' 7-3 win over Binghamton, when he went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a pair of doubles, the second of which gave Erie the lead for good.

Batting .314 on the season, Pounds has one home run to go along with five RBIs.

Other than Johnson, Bertram and Pounds, however, the SeaWolves have struggled to get men aboard consistantly. Erie currently has five regulars who have played at least nine games hitting below .242.

On the plus side for the Wolves, second baseman Brandon Douglas may be beginning to find his stroke.

Douglas has raised his average to .255, as he has gone 7-for-18 in his last four games after beginning the year just 5-for-29. Douglas also picked up his first home run in Erie's 11-7 loss to Bowie in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday.

The 25-year-old Douglas is a perennial .300-hitter, putting together a .300 average in each of his first three seasons in the minor leagues.

The good, the bad and the ugly

Nowhere has there been a larger inequality than in the SeaWolves bullpen. The good has undoubtedly been Jared Gayhart, Lester Oliveros and Austin Wood. Together, they account for five of Erie's six wins and have yet to allow a meaningful run.

Gayhart leads the team with a 1.04 ERA, while Oliveros and Wood each carry 1.17 ERAs.

Gayhart is second on the team with 14 strikeouts in just 8 2/3 innings pitched and is also tops with a 0.46 WHIP. Oliveros leads the team with two wins, while Wood has provided stability in manager Chris Cron's bullpen.

Rob Waite, Matt Little and Cory Hamilton have struggled in their appearances out of the Erie bullpen.

Waite has allowed multiple runs in each of his first two appearances en route to a 13.50 ERA. He is currently 0-1, as he allowed three runs after coming into a tie game April 9 against Altoona.

Little attempted to relieve Waite in the SeaWolves 6-2 loss to Altoona, but did not fare much better, as he allowed two runs in two innings. Little currently holds an ERA of 6.00.

Cory Hamilton has been perhaps the most erratic of all relievers, composing a 14.40 ERA after allowing multiple runs in each of his last three appearances.

Despite allowing three runs in two innings against Binghamton on April 12, Hamilton picked up the win. However, he could not build on this fortune, as he gave up seven runs, three of which were earned in just 1/3 of an inning in the Erie's 7-11 loss to Bowie Sunday.

Closer Chance Ruffin put together one of the more ugly appearances from the Erie bullpen, when his wild pitch gave Bowie a 9-8 win in the teams' April 15 affair.

Ruffin gave up a lead-off triple to Bowie's Ronny Welty, and proceeded to walk the next two batters to begin the 12th inning. Ruffin then uncorked a pitch wide of cathcer Bryan Holaday that enabled Welty to touch home plate for the win.

Besides the misfortune in Maryland, Ruffin has had three quality appearances as well as a save. The 22-year-old should carve out a place in the back end of Erie's bullpen in his first full season after being drafted as a compensatory first round pick out of Texas.

Home again

The SeaWolves will return to the friendly confines of Jerry Uht Park Thursday, where they will host the same teams they traveled to play on their roadtrip—Bowie and Reading.

Erie managed to put together a pair of winning streaks sandwiched by a losing streak on its way to a 4-2 record in its initial homestand.

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