Minor League Notebook: 6/9

Apparently, it's just not possible for the Tiger organization to have an all around good day. Because whenever the Tigers win, the minor league clubs seem to falter. That held true Wednesday, as the Tigers won, but their farm teams went a combined 1-2 on the day, and two of their most promising pitching prospects struggled on the mound.

AAA Toledo 31-29, 3rd place in West division
The Mudhens were the lone bright spot among the minor league teams on Wednesday defeating the Richmond Braves by a score of 8-1. Andy Van Hekken took the win for the Mudhens, going 8 innings, only allowing 1 run and striking out 5. Van Hekken is now an impressive 5-2 on the year. OF Marcus Thames continues his hot streak, blasting yet another Home Run, to go with 3 RBI and 3 runs scored. DH Andy Barkett also had a big game, going 3-for-4 with 3 RBI.

Coming into 2003, Van Hekken was being relied upon to be one of the Tiger starters - in fact, he was one of only three pitchers assumed to have a spot in the rotation locked up entering Spring Training. But then, Van Hekken seemed to lose his sharpness, and suddenly he wasn't the same pitcher, he went from the Tigers #3 starter to the Toledo bullpen in a matter of weeks. And Van Hekken certainly hasn't been dominant in Toledo (even after his excellent outing his ERA is still only 4.61), but the 5-2 record is certainly something to take notice of. His K:BB ratio is a healthy 2.4:1, so despite his struggles over the past year and a half, the soft-tossing lefty still might get another shot somewhere in the bigs before he's labeled a bust.

AA Erie 34-22, 1st place in Southern division
Wil Ledezma has been Erie's top starter through the first 2 months of the season, but he certainly didn't show it on Wednesday. Ledezma was in and out of trouble all game long, and while he lasted a while (7 2/3 innings), he gave up a season-high 6 runs. He also struck out 5 and walked 1. The poor effort by Ledezma combined with a lack of offense spelled Erie's 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Bowie Baysox. The only player that seemed to show up at the plate was 1B Juan Tejada, who went 4-for-5 with a Home Run and a pair of RBI. Jack Hannahan, Kurt Airoso and Maxim St. Pierre each had a pair of hits as well.

After a hot April and a terrible May, Tejada seems to be back on track, as evidenced by his average, which has jumped from .222 to .279 over the first 10 days of the month. Tejada has also had 2 Home Runs and 10 RBI over the 9 game stretch. Tejada leads the team in Home Runs and RBI, and is tied for 2nd in the Eastern League in Home Runs (4th in RBI). Tejada needs to work on being more consistent at the plate - as we've seen with Carlos Pena and Eric Munson, the Tigers will not have any patience with struggling youngsters (whether or not that's a good thing can be debated) - but nevertheless Tejada's bat continues to come around.

High-A Lakeland 27-34, 5th place in West division
Kyle Sleeth has been almost unhittable, he hasn't allowed more than 3 earned runs since his 2nd start of the season. Unfortunately, that streak came to an end Wednesday, as Sleeth gave up 4 runs in 5 innings of work before being yanked as the L-Tigers fell to Jupiter 7-5. Felix Cuello ended up taking the loss for Lakeland to fall to 2-3 on the year, after he lost the lead Sleeth handed over to him in the 6th. Nobody had a huge game offensively, Tony Giarratano continued to hit well with a pair of hits and an RBI, but there were no other notables.

Sleeth didn't have his best stuff on Wednesday, but there's still no reason to worry about Sleeth. The Tigers appear closer to making a decision on Sleeth - possibly moving him up at the end of this month, once they can figure out what to do with their Erie rotation and how to open up a spot a for him. Right now, if all goes according to plan, Sleeth will finish the year out in AA Erie, then get the chance to compete for a rotation spot with the Tigers next Spring. If he can't nab one of the spots, he'll probably only be away for a few months, as he should make his Tiger debut by the time the city of Detroit hosts the All Star game next July.

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