Minor League Notebook: 6/8

The Tigers fell, meanwhile their farm teams had another mediocre day, going 2-2 once again. However, all was not bad, as one of the victories showcased 2 of the Tigers top prospects, one on the mound, the other at the plate. Plus, the Tigers Outfield may be crowded right now, but each day Marcus Thames seems to try and make it tougher to keep him in Toledo.

AAA Toledo 30-29, 3rd place in West division
The Mudhens got roughed up Tuesday, falling to the Richmond Braves 7-5. Shane Loux didn't have his best outing, allowing all 7 runs to score in his 5 2/3 innings of work. On the plus side, recently signed James Baldwin closed out the game, pitching the final 3 1/3 innings without allowing a run, and only giving up one hit. Marcus Thames also had another big game, going 2-for-3 with a Home Run (his 20th) and a double. C Guillermo Rodriguez also had a Home Run, his 3rd on the year.

Despite allowing 7 runs, Loux didn't have an incredibly poor outing. He only walked 1 batter, and still struck out 7. Some days, pitchers just don't have their best stuff. Unfortunately, the Tigers see this type of performance in virtually every appearance the young Righty makes with the Tigers. Assuming Loux continues his solid season with Toledo, the Tigers will probably give him one final chance to prove himself - but few within the organization are optimistic the third time will be the charm for Loux.

AA Erie 34-21, 1st place in Southern division
Like the Tigers, the Seawolves went into extra innings on Tuesday, but they came out better than the Tigers did, with the bullpen pitching almost 10 innings of 1 run baseball, including being shut out the final 6 innings of play. After a poor start by Rick Kirsten (3 1/3 innings, 5 runs), Roberto Novoa came on and gave the offense a chance to get the team back in the game, going 4 1/3 with 1 run and 2 strikeouts in relief. Anderson Hernandez drove in the winning run on a single in the bottom of the 13th to win it for Erie.

Hernandez has had a pair of inconsistent seasons, but he appears to finally be putting things together. Hernandez has bounced between Lakeland and Erie this year, after spending 2002 and 2003 with Lakeland, where his all-around game seemed to steadily decline. Nonetheless, he seems to be back on track now, and while he may not be the same prospect as Tony Giarratano is at Lakeland, Hernandez is still only 21 and as long as he can keep hitting, the Tigers will give him time to allow his defense and ability on the basepaths to come around.

High-A Lakeland 27-33, 5th place in West division
In what was arguably the most impressive pitching performance of the year (yes, even potentially better than a number of Kyle Sleeth's starts), Joel Zumaya showed why he received so much praise after his first pro season. Zumaya pitched a complete game shutout on Tuesday against Jupiter, striking out a season-high 11 batters while scattering 7 hits (all singles). At the plate, Brent Clevlen was the star, going 2-for-4 with 4 RBI. Tony Giarratano also had a pair of hits and a pair of steals for the L-Tigers.

Zumaya had a rough start to the season, but as the season has progressed, he has improved immensely, pitching with more control, and in turn, getting better results on the mound. He's still not on the same level as Sleeth as far as major league potential or readiness, but he is still without a doubt the Tigers top lower level pitching prospect not named Kyle. The key for Zumaya will be to keep his strikeouts up and his walks down, maybe not at the level of Tuesday (11 K's to 0 BB's), but closer to that than his previous start (5 K's to 5 BB's).

Low-A West Michigan 22-36, 6th place in Eastern divison
The Whitecaps fell again on Tuesday, as Kane County got the best of them, 12-6. Jordan Tata was roughed up, allowing 10 runs in 4 innings. The offense was able to put up some runs, but not nearly enough to overcome the deficit. Kurt Piantek had a big day at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a Home Run and 5 RBI. The Whitecaps now have an off day Wednesday in hopes of re-grouping.


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