Lakeland MLN: Keeping Pace through the Rain

It's as old as they come, but it still reigns true – When it rains, it pours. The old cliché has been the theme of Lakeland's past week as, during a week with two torrential rainouts, the Flying Tigers kept pace with the FSL North by displaying new power, and displaying it in excess.

Despite only hitting 49 home runs in 87 games this year, Lakeland blasted six in the curtailed week's five games. The power surge helped squeeze out three wins and, although only 8-9, Lakeland continues to run with the pack and is only two games behind the 1st place Yankees.

The new angle from the offense, if sustained, comes at the perfect time, too. With the injury of door-shutting closer Kenny Faulk and weak recent defense, the offense will have to compensate.

Power storm

The home runs have been deposited by not only common power threats like Tony Plagman and Wade Gaynor, but by common spark plugs.

Second baseman Corey Jones, perhaps a bit motivated by playing alongside Major Leaguer Carlos Guillen last week, hit a homer in two consecutive games on Friday and Saturday. His homers, although rare, were also matched with other surprising power numbers. Along with three runs and a double, Jones drove in a formidable nine runs from the seven-hole, including a 3-RBI game on Monday.

Along with Jones, Plagman launched his twelfth while Gaynor and Brent Wyatt hit their seventh and third, respectively.

The past week was a bit inconsistent for the final home run contributor, center fielder Daniel Fields. Fields, who has been consistently praised for his ball-tracking in the outfield, has recently been scrutinized, more intensely than usual, for his weak arm. And, unfortunately for Fields, his recent power hasn't helped scouts or coaches overlook his shortcoming.

Trouble in the outfield

It was perhaps the epitome of Field's problematic arm.

In the top of the fourth vs. Lakeland last Wednesday, Brad McElroy stepped up to the plate for Dunedin with Kevin Nolan at second and two outs in a 1-0 game. After a few pitches from Cole Nelson, McElroy laces a hard liner up the middle that quickly approached Fields in center. The ball was possessed by Fields only about 20 feet behind second as Nolan touched third base. With anyone else throwing the ball the third base coach would have been ill-advised to continue to swing his arm and signal for Nolan to continue home but, with Fields crow-hopping, it definitely proved to be the right choice.

After a quick hop-and-throw from Fields, the throw bounced wide of cutoff man Tony Plagman and trickled to catcher Eric Roof. Roof was forced to leave his station blocking home plate and retrieve the ball. On top of Nolan easily trotting over home plate, McElroy was able to easily trot to second base.

Fellow outfielders Avisail Garcia, Michael Rockett, and Brent Wyatt can all shoot to home effectively, so if Fields' range can't continue to be enough to appease Dave Huppert, a position change is possible.

Committee pitching

Recent weeks have experienced consistently impressive starts from the rotation, but the staff was consistently switched around to adhere to the rain-ridden, constantly changing schedule.

Only twice did Lakeland get fine innings from their starters – on Monday from Trevor Feeney (6 IP 0 ER), and yesterday, Wednesday, from Victor Larez (5.2 IP 2 ER).

Other than that, games were constantly being stopped for calls to the bullpen.

In five games, Lakeland coaching reached to the depths of its staff, using 14 different pitchers over span of the week.

Ryan Robowski continues to be a reliable member of the bullpen. Robowski pitched another 4.1 scoreless innings this week, and has decreased his ERA to 2.52.

Faulk to the DL

Kenny Faulk, who was second in the FSL with 20 saves, has been placed on the 7-day DL.

Faulk's last appearance came on Sunday vs. Bradenton. Faulk came in in the ninth with a 6-2 lead, but let up three earned runs while only recording two outs.

Matt Little came in to record the final out and the save, which could hint that he's Huppert's new go-to guy for save opportunities.

Looking forward

Lakeland is one game into an eight game homestand. They have three more games vs. the St. Luice Mets, and then host Charlotte for four games. The two teams top the FSL South.

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