Lakeland MLN: Bullpen Picking Up the Slack

The momentum has begun to gain some substance for the Flying Tigers, but close-game losses have kept them around .500 and eleven games out of first place.

Aside from a few game losses, too, Lakeland lost their surprising starting star, Jay Voss, to AA Erie. Voss, who was 3-0 for Lakeland, is making his first Erie start of the year today, Thursday.

Although the Tigers finished the past week at 4-3, matching the same record as last week and continuing their slow turnaround from their early-season struggles, streaking Daytona (winners of their last eight) and Clearwater 29-18 remain eleven and five game ahead of Lakeland.

Despite a semi-impressive week, the bats have been cold, though.

Offense struggling a bit

Throughout the season there has been a consistent inconsistency in the lineup. Bats have gone hot and cold as the day goes night but there were always a few sparks that kept the offense afloat but, lately, it's fully cold.

Tony Plagman, Lakeland's top run producing first baseman only has six hits in his last 27 at-bats while falling to fourth in the Florida State League in RBI. He hasn't homered since the 17th.

The lineup around him hasn't done much to provide or protect him, either. Third baseman Wade Gaynor, who hit hot just two weeks ago, is 5-for-27 since the 19th and, behind him, Daniel Fields, the top-prospect outfielder was 4-for-28.

Fields, this year, already has 58 strikeouts compared to an impatient 12 walks. And while Plagman is competing for the league-lead in RBI, Fields has steadied himself atop the FSL in strikeouts.

In a positive view, though, Lakeland has begun to try and compensate for the lack of offensive formidability by putting pressure on the defense.

They've begun to play a little small-ball while utilizing Gustavo Nunez's speed. Nunez was only 5-for-11 in base stealing attempts before last week, but has four stolen bases without being caught this week.

He now has nine stolen bases in 15 attempts.

Impressive Pitching

The Tigers lost their best pitcher, Jay Voss, a few days ago but a few guys, especially the bullpen, have stepped up in his place.

Kenny Faulk, the trustworthy closer is still impressing both scouts and fans. In just the past week Faulk has earned another three saves to raise his season total 11. Justin Friend, Clearwater's closer, who, during an interview, Faulk seemed to have a personal competition against, leads the FSL with 16.

Faulk's WHIP sits at 1.02, 0.32 higer than Friend's, but has an awesome K:BB ratio. To only two walks Faulk has struck out 30 batters.

Beside Faulk, Ryan Robowski, although allowing two earned runs in his past four innings pitched, has begun to see more opportunities in the wake of short-distanced starting pitching.

Despite the two earned runs this week, as though two earned runs are unacceptable, Robowski's ERA remains at 2.05, gaining the trust of the coaching staff and leading him to increased time on the field.

Looking ahead

More pieces continue to fall into place for Lakeland.

They've improved their play and, with a simple schedule coming up, they can expect to make a dent in their five game deficit of Clearwater.

Starting today they play four games in four days vs. the FSL South bottom Palm Beach. Palm Beach, at 18-29, doesn't pose a large threat.

After the Cardinals Lakeland hosts the top of the FSL South, Fort Myers.

Making moves

Lakeland was busy this week.

After shipping Jay Voss up to Erie, they're lucky to have reliever Shaun Teufel back from the disabled list.

Jordan Pratt was activated from the 7-day DL, and they acquired Kevan Hess from the Tigers extended spring training.

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