Minor League Notebook: 6/15

Last season, Jeremy Bonderman and Wil Ledezma were teammates, youngsters on a big league team before they should have been. Now Ledezma is back in the minors, and it was only fitting that the two ex-teammates pitched on the same day, each pitching practically identical outings. On the other hand, Kyle Sleeth may be ready to join Bonderman as early as next season, but he didn't quite show it in his start.

AAA Toledo 34-31, 2nd place in West division
The Mudhens were off on Tuesday, they resume play Wednesday with a doubleheader against Richmond as they start up a 4-game series.

AA Erie 36-25, 1st place in Southern division
The Seawolves took down Reading by a score of 2-1 on Tuesday. Wilfredo Ledezma had another excellent start, although he got a no decision for his effort. He pitched 8 innings, gave up 1 run while striking out 8. Lee Rodney, just called up from Lakeland, pitched the final inning and got the win, due to Kurt Airoso's double that scored Juan Tejada to win it in the bottom of the 9th.

Every team has them, the guy that is 5 or 6 years older than the rest of the group, still hanging on in the minors, chasing the dream. For the Erie Seawolves, that guy is Kurt Airoso. Airoso, who is now 29 years old, is the typical veteran leader on the club, helping bring along the youngsters, as well as providing extra protection in the lineup for the young hitters that might be pitched around. Airoso is 2nd on the team in Home Runs and RBI (12, 38), and as witnessed Tuesday, gives the team a veteran bat that can do things like drive in game winning runs. Airoso doesn't have a future with the Tigers, but he does have a role in the organization, and he plays it well.

High-A Lakeland 27-36, 5th place in West division
Apparently, the Lakeland pitching staff still has a little bit of rust to shake off after the long weekend for the All Star game. The L-Tigers fell to St. Lucie 11-3. Kyle Sleeth didn't pitch horribly (6 IP, 4 ER, 5 K's), but did however take the loss to drop to 5-4 on the year. Felix Cuello had a very rough outing, allowing the remainder of the runs (7) to score, while only recording 1 out. At the plate, CF Victor Mendez had a 2-run Home Run, and SS Tony Giarratano continues to hit like crazy, with another 2 hits.

Giarratano has continued to showcase his ability at the plate, despite bumping up a level in competition. Giarratano is currently hitting .393, has driven in 7 runs and swiped 5 bases, all in only 14 games. Tiger Shortstop is having an amazing first half to the season, but his performance is in essence a double-edged sword, with him becoming a free agent this winter. Regardless of what happens with Guillen though, Giarratano is beginning to show that he has the makings of a future big league Shortstop.

Low-A West Michigan 26-38, 5th place in Eastern division
The Whitecaps, like the Seawolves, won a tight one on Tuesday, topping Burlington 2-1. But unlike Erie, West Michigan got all their scoring in the first inning, off a 2-run Home run by Kelly Hunt. Virgil Vasquez had an impressive outing on the mound, going 8 innings with 1 earned run and 6 strikeouts. The win pushed Vasquez to 7-3 on the year.

Vasquez was a Tiger draft pick last summer out of UC-Santa Barbara, one of the top college programs in the nation. He had an inconsistent season with Oneonta, going 3-4 but with an ERA of 6.92. He also had a rocky start to 2004, but lately he appears to be calming down and putting up some solid performances for the Whitecaps. Vasquez, like most of his teammates, isn't a power pitcher, so he has to rely on location more than stuff - not a good omen for a pitcher's future, especially at such a low level. However, over his last 3 starts (all wins), Vasquez has struck out 15 batters with just 2 walks all while sporting an ERA of 1.17. Vasquez still has a long ways to go, but he's definitely making an attempt to show the Tiger brass that the Whitecaps aren't completely empty in the pitching department.

Have a question on a Tiger prospect or one of the Tigers minor league teams? Send a question to Mark Anderson to have it answered in his next mailbag!

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