West Mich MLN: Into the Dog Days

At this point in the Midwest League season, a lot of players are probably getting to that place that most people in any profession get to; that is, when your job becomes a bit monotonous after doing the same thing day after day. It's commonly noted in Major League Baseball, and the Midwest League is no exception.

That being said, the West Michigan Whitecaps seem to be an exception, at least to a degree. Between the Eastern Division race that the team finds itself right in the middle of, the plethora of roster moves, and the temporary loss of a key bullpen component, the 'Caps have found that monotony is anything but the case.

On Saturday, the organization announced that it was releasing lefty reliever Logan Hoch (0-1, 5.13, 1 SV). Though he was able to show glimmers of potential, Hoch never really panned out in Comstock Park, as he average one earned run per appearance.

The 'Caps supplemented Hoch's departure by adding a familiar face, Victor Larez. In 2010, Larez went 8-11 in thirty-three games for West Michigan—seventeen of which were starts. Larez was also second on the team in innings pitched, showing that he is a sustainable arm, either in the rotation or the bullpen. He is scheduled to start in tonight's finale against Beloit.

Less of an exciting roster move, though, is the loss of reliever Patrick Cooper (4-5, 3.20, 1 SV), who has been put on the 15 day disabled list with tightness in his right forearm. This will weaken what is a considerably strong bullpen, as Cooper is third on the team in appearances out of the bullpen. Cooper's spot will be filled by righty Ryan Woolley, a University of Alabama-Birmingham alum who was the thirteenth round pick for Detroit in this year's draft.

Despite taking three of their last four series, the Whitecaps still find themselves two games out of the division lead behind Dayton, and one game out of the wild card behind Great Lakes. They are sitting at 13-10 in the second half, and 45-47 overall.

Third baseman Nick Castellanos has seemingly matured at a rapid pace during his tenure in West Michigan, as he's gone from the team's best hitter to one of the best hitters in the Midwest League in the span of a month.

He leads the team in nearly every offensive statistical category, and is fourth in the Eastern Division in batting average (.300), fifth in runs batted in (54), and sixth in total bases (148). As a team, the Whitecaps are tied for the division lead in batting average and strikeouts.

Closer Bruce Rondon (2-1, 2.00, 18 SV) has continued his dominance of the Midwest League, as he leads the league in saves. Furthermore, Rondon is closing in on the franchise's record for most saves in a season, which was set in 1997 by Fransisco Cordero. Cordero recently recorded his 300th save with the Cincinnati Reds.

The West Michigan Whitecaps conclude their road swing tonight against Beloit, before returning home to face the Kane County Cougars.

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