Minor League Notebook: 6/19

The Tigers upper level farm teams had a good day on Saturday, going 2-0, but the A-ball clubs weren't quite as impressive, as all three lost their games. Possibly the most exciting win has to go to Toledo, where Marcus Thames matched the effort of Mike Cameron on Friday night. Meanwhile Oneonta is off to a rough start and one West Michigan starter is on a Mike Maroth-like run from 2003.

AAA Toledo 37-33, 2nd place in West division
More fireworks for the Mudhens, as Marcus Thames won the game with a walkoff Home Run in the bottom of the 13th. Thames also had a 2-run Home Run earlier in the game, giving him 24 on the year. Andy Van Hekken started for the Mudhens and got a no decision, but pitched extremely well, striking out 11 over 7 2/3 innings, allowing 3 runs. John Ennis pitched the final 2 innings to get the win to go to 8-5. Chris Shelton, who is on a rehab assignment in Toledo, had 2 singles in his first appearance with the Hens.

With his 11 strikeout performance, Van Hekken now leads the team in strikeouts with 66. That number also puts him 3rd in the International League. For the month of June, Van Hekken has struck out 32 batters while carrying a 2.19 ERA and a 2-0 record. Van Hekken's ERA still isn't among the best on the team, but he is probably the lone starter in Toledo that is going to get a shot in Detroit - especially with Shane Loux's sudden falling off.

AA Erie 37-29, 2nd place in Southern division
The Seawolves had a big win over Altoona on Saturday by a score of 13-7. Roberto Novoa got the win in relief, going to 3-0 on the season. Mark Woodyard, expected to return to the bullpen with the promotion of Kyle Sleeth, got the start and did well while getting a no decision, going 5 1/3 innings with 3 earned runs. Everyone was having fun at the plate, with 4 players hitting Home Runs on their way to their highest scoring game of the year. Erie actually went into the 9th inning down 7-6, but a 7 run 9th proved too much for Altoona to overcome. The 9th was highlighted by a Curtis Granderson grand slam.

Granderson has been a bit of an enigma this season, continuing to show promise but not making that next step. Granderson's .266/.356/.418 line isn't terrible, but not quite what the Tigers had hoped for from the young Outfielder. Granderson has had 5 hits his last 3 games, but needs to keep hitting and avoid long 0-for streaks like what he has had this season. Granderson's defense is good, but if he ever expects to challenge for a starting spot in the majors, he'll need to show some more life with the bat, otherwise his future is destined to be that of a 4th Outfielder.

High-A Lakeland 28-39, 5th place in West division
Lakeland, somewhat like their parent club, just can't seem to pull out close games. On Saturday, they fell to Sarasota 4-3. Jeremy Johnson gave the team a quality start (the exact definition in fact), going 6 innings with 3 earned runs. He also struck out 2. Johnson got a no decision, as the L-Tigers tied the game in the 7th, but Jason Moates gave the run right back in the bottom half of the 7th. Moates got the loss. Tony Giarratano had a double after his hit streak ended at 17, while CF Victor Mendez also chipped in a pair of hits.

Victor Mendez was highly regarded, up until 2003 when he could only manage a .236 average for Lakeland. Mendez hasn't been able to do any better in 2004, his second year with the L-Tigers. Mendez is still slugging over .400, but his .215 average has few excited about his long term potential. Mendez was brought in 6 years ago as a minor league free agent out of the Dominican Republic, but with Mendez about to turn 24, it appears this once promising youngster probably will never fulfill the potential the Tigers saw.

Low-A West Michigan 28-40, 5th place in Eastern division
The Whitecaps lost a close one, falling to Dayton 2-1 on Saturday. Jordan Tata just can't get a break, as he took the loss to fall to 1-10 on the year. Tata allowed the 2 Dayton runs in 5 2/3 innings. The Whitecaps lone run was an unearned run off a throwing error on a popout. SS Juan Francia did have 2 hits for the Whitecaps.

The 22-year old Francia wasn't expected to be much with the bat, but has proved those doubters wrong with his performance ever since Giarratano was promoted to Lakeland and Francia was given the starting Shortstop job. Francia doesn't have much power and isn't amazing defensively, but he has gotten very good at slapping singles all around the diamond, and he's shown enough patience that he's become a useful player at the top of the order, getting on base at a good pace (.397 OBP). Like most of his teammates, Francia doesn't have a big future in the organization, but the Whitecaps can use every bright spot possible, and Francia is at least providing that.

SS-A Oneonta 0-2, 3rd place in Stedler division
Oneonta has started off their season with a slow start, going 0-2 so far. They lost on Saturday to Vermont, 8-6. Josh Rainwater got the start and had a solid first outing, going 5 2/3 innings with 2 earned runs and 5 strikeouts. 2B Francisco Castro went 3-for-3 with 2 walks at the top of the order, quickly emerging as a solid leadoff man for the O-Tigers. The other star was OF Justin Justice, who had another 2 RBI for Oneonta.


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