Strieby Eyes a Strong Finish

About to end his sixth season in the minor leagues, Ryan Strieby's time may finally be coming. The former Tigers' fourth round pick is a member of the team's 40-man roster and with just over two weeks remaining in the season, and the Mud Hens out of playoff contention, he may be looking at a September call-up.

"I wouldn't say that I'm eyeing [a call-up]; I think every guy in this locker room would want the chance to go up and help a team that is doing really well and is in first place," Ryan Strieby said. "We'll just have to see how it plays out and play the rest of the season down here and see what happens."

As a first baseman/designated hitter, getting any playing time with the Tigers down the stretch would be difficult for Strieby. Not only are the Tigers locking in a tight playoff race, where you want to play your best players as often as possible, but the Tigers' best hitters just happen to occupy first base and designated hitter in the lineup.

However, Strieby was adamant about wanting to focus on finishing out the season at Toledo strong.

Coming into pro ball, Strieby was a rather prolific offensive force. In 2006, he was named the Southeastern Conference player of the year at Kentucky for hitting .347 with 20 home runs, the latter stat being good for 11th in Division I baseball.

He also knocked in 77 runs (fifth in Division I) and was selected a first-team All-American by Baseball America.

"Obviously playing at Kentucky in the SEC, arguably one of the best college conferences was big for me having that success there," Strieby said.

Strieby had limited success in his first minor league season, hitting four home runs in 61 games after signing a contract with the Tigers. However, his numbers noticeably improved in 2007, setting him up for a breakout 2008 season.

In that season, he hit .278 with 29 home runs and 94 RBI in 112 games, earning him the Detroit Minor League Player of the Year award.

"The first half of the year I was kind of struggling a bit, but then half way through the year something really clicked," he said. "From then on I just felt really good and was having consistent at-bats every day."

However, at the end of the 2008 season he broke the hamate bone in his hand which effectively sapped his power for nearly two seasons.

He hit 29 home runs in the next two seasons combined, over a span of 162 games, and while he hit .303 in 2009, his average dwindled to .245 in 2010.

"It was one of those deals where my hand was stiff and swinging every day just wore on it," Strieby said. "I had some sharp pain in there that I could get past and was lingering around for a couple of years.

"Mentally it was tough because I didn't feel that I was physically the player that I wanted to be."

Now, while his season has gone through ups-and-downs, Strieby has found his swing in recent months, leading the team with 19 home runs and 70 RBI while posting a respectable .264 batting average.

More importantly, his 118 games played this year is the most he has played since 2007, when he played 123.

"He's just been a great player for us this year," said Toledo manager Phil Nevin. "He's been giving us good at-bats and has had good success."

Strieby said that finally getting over his hand injury has been a big reason for his success, as now he can step up to the plate and only worry about hitting, instead of going up there and having the injury in the back of his mind.

"That was definitely one of my goals this year, to get healthy and to stay healthy and be available for every game that we play," he said. "Before any stat or anything else, that was my main goal and I think so far it's been good."

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