Minor League Notebook: 6/7

While the front office was busy adding talent to the minor league system, the minor league squads were busy playing games - splitting the day on Monday, going 2-2. One former Tiger bounced back, while another one had a setback after steady improvement over the past couple of months. All this, plus another big game from a former Yankee prospect.

AAA Toledo 30-28, 3rd place in West division
After a string of solid appearances, Matt Anderson finally had a setback - earning the loss for the Mudhens on Monday, as they fell to the Richmond Braves, 6-5. Anderson allowed the tying and go-ahead runs to score in the 8th inning, the final run being his own. OF Marcus Thames had another big game for the Mudhens, going 3-for-5 with 2 Home Runs. C Mike DiFelice, who has received little mention despite very solid play for the Mudhens, went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Currently, Thames leads the International League in Home Runs and RBI. However, that doesn't necessarily mean a promotion is in his near future. Unless the Tigers have a run on injuries in the Outfield, there is just very little room right now in the Tiger outfield, despite Thames' excellent hitting through the first two months of the season. He'll surely get a call-up come September when the rosters expand, but unless a pair of Outfielders go down, Thames is probably stuck an hour South of where he'd like to be.

AA Erie 33-21, 1st place in Southern division
Erie won a high-scoring affair on Monday, taking down Bowie 13-10. Matt Roney, who cooled off after a hot April, had a solid start and earned the win, going 7 innings while allowing 3 runs and striking out 5. Three Seawolves had Home Runs; David Espinosa (9th), Curtis Granderson (6th), and Brandon Harper (6th). Juan Tejada also had 3 hits for Erie, as did Harper. On a down note, Felix Sanchez the recently acquired lefty from Chicago for Jon Connolly, gave up 3 runs in an inning of work, pushing his ERA back above 8.

David Espinosa was acquired by the Tigers three years ago as the centerpiece of a deal that sent Brian Moehler to Cincinnati. After a year and a half of unspectacular performance, Espinosa had a good year with Lakeland in 2003, and is continuing that with Erie in 2004. As the team's leadoff hitter, Espinosa is hitting .313, with an OBP of .412, leading the team with 34 walks. He doesn't have the same leadoff speed as Alex Sanchez or Nook Logan, but he puts the ball in play and can get on base plenty. Along with Thames, Espinosa could see a September call-up if he keeps hitting the way he is.

High-A Lakeland 26-33, 5th place in West division
The L-Tigers, behind the pitching of Jeremy Johnson, defeated Jupiter 8-2 on Monday. Johnson continues to work his way back from injury, earning his first win of the season, pitching 6 innings of shutout baseball, allowing only 3 hits and striking out 5. Johnson got help from the top of the order, as Michael Woods and Tony Giarratano (the new Lakeland up-the-middle combo) went 8-for-10 with 4 runs scored and 3 RBI. 1B Jody Roughton also went 3-for-4 with an RBI.

In the middle of the 2-day draft, it seems like a perfect time to discuss Woods. Woods, an All American Second Baseman out of Southern University, fell to the Tigers in the "sandwich" round, the compensation picks for players lost in free agency. Woods became the compensation the Tigers would get for losing Juan Gonzalez, and up until this season, he looked to be a bust as well, battling injuries and never doing much at the plate. Until now. For the season, Woods is hitting an even .300 to go along with 2 Home Runs and 16 RBI. The Tigers would like to see a little better defense (9 errors) and more discipline at the plate (13 walks in 180 at bats), but Woods has nevertheless shown that he still has a shot to contribute with the big league club some day.

Low-A West Michigan 22-35, 6th in Southern division
The Whitecaps lost a tough one on Monday, falling to Kane County 7-5. Andy Baldwin didn't have one of his better outings, allowing 4 runs in 5 innings (and taking the loss), but the Whitecaps still made a comeback at the end, just not having enough firepower to tie it up. 1B Kelly Hunt blasted a 3-run Home Run, his 7th of the year, while 3B Kody Kirkland went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a pair of RBI.

Kelly Hunt entered the Tiger organization with little fanfare, as a 34th round selection by the Tigers in last year's draft. However, Hunt hasn't let his less-than-noticable draft status affect his play, as Hunt is hitting .270 with 7 Home Runs and a team leading (by far) 36 RBI. Hunt may not be an acclaimed prospect like some players with a much higher draft status, but he nevertheless is helping the Whitecaps struggle through a down year, and making the most of his opportunity.

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