Minor League Notebook: 6/20

Overall, it was a good day for Tiger minor league clubs, as they combined to go 4-1 on the day. The only loser on Sunday was Toledo, but Chris Shelton had another good game for the Mudhens, reinforcing the fact that Shelton is going to be a player down the road, and is definitely worth keeping the rest of the year on the big league roster, even if he isn't quite yet ready to contribute. Plus, one top prospect's debut wasn't quite what many were hoping for.

AAA Toledo 37-34, 2nd place in West division
Pat Ahearne had a rough outing, and in turn the Mudhens fell to Louisville 6-4. Ahearne, the Tigers minor league Pitcher of the Month for April, pitched 7 innings, but gave up 5 runs. The Mudhens got one run in the 9th, and had the bases loaded, but Brant Ust struck out to end the game. OF Eric Owens had a good game, launching his 3rd Home Run of the season, as did Chris Shelton, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI and 2 walks for the Mudhens.

Shelton has only been at Toledo for 2 games now, but the numbers speak for themselves - Shelton can hit. There was little doubting this before he was selected in the Rule V draft, and even less now. After a stint with Toledo, Shelton will return to Detroit, and Alan Trammell will have to make a move - more than likely, dropping utility man Greg Norton. Shelton doesn't have great power, and will probably need a year back in the minors after this season to keep developing, but make no mistake about it, Shelton and his bat are a keeper, even if the Tigers still aren't sure where to put him on the field yet.

AA Erie 38-29, 2nd place in Southern division
The Seawolves beat Altoona in extra innings 9-8 on Sunday, but all wasn't grand for the Seawolves. Kyle Sleeth, in his first start with the Seawolves, had a rough go of it, giving up 7 runs in 6 innings of work - including 3 Home Runs. Despite the hole though, the Seawolves offense crawled their way back out of it, aided by 4-for-6 efforts by 2B Ryan Raburn and 1B Juan Tejada. Tejada also had 3 RBI and the game winning run, scoring on an error.

Well, the first start wasn't ideal, but chalk this one up to nerves and the adjustment from tougher competition. Sleeth did pitch the final 2 innings with only one hit, so hopefully his next start will go better. What was promising though was the production at the top from Anderson Hernandez and Raburn, the up-the-middle combination. The two combined for 7 hits and kept threats going throughout the game, a main reason why the team stuck around despite the early deficit. Hernandez still isn't hitting for much power or walking, but his average is definitely a good sign, and he was already considered the best defensive infield prospect in the system. Once Hernandez can take a pitch or two, his future should look even better for the Tigers.

High-A Lakeland 29-39, 5th place in West division
The L-Tigers beat Fort Myers 8-3 on Sunday, receiving solid performances from a number of players. Corey Hamman, Felix Cuello and John Birtwell each pitched on Sunday, with Birtwell picking up the win in relief after Hamman started - his first start of the year, he only went 3 innings. The more impressive note comes from the offense, where 5 players had 2 or more hits, including David Mattle who had a Home Run and 2 RBI, and SS Gilberto Meija, who had 3 hits and 3 RBI.

Birtwell got the win, his first win of the year, and first win in more than a year. After having a breakout rookie campaign, having an excellent season at Low-A West Michigan - he even shared the Tigers minor league Pitcher of the Year award, Birtwell went under the knife. He started a comeback this Spring, but it was short-lived, as he contracted mono, slowing his progress. However, with 6 appearances under his belt, Birtwell looks like he's getting back on track. Birtwell's ERA currently sits at 1.86, and if he continues to pitch as well as he is, he could be headed back to Erie for bullpen help.

Low-A West Michigan 29-40, 5th place in Southern division
West Michigan heads into the Midwest League All Star break on a good note, with a 4-0 win over Dayton on Sunday. The Whitecaps were led by Virgil Vasquez, who threw 6 2/3 innings of shutout baseball, including 5 strikeouts, to improve his record to 8-3 on the year. 3B Kody Kirkland had 2 hits for the Whitecaps (and possibly more importantly, 2 walks with no strikeouts). OF Garth McKinney also had 2 hits and an RBI.

Three Whitecaps were selected to play in the All Star game; pitchers Chris Steinborn and Andy Baldwin, and Shortstop Tony Giarratano. There was talk that Giarratano would return to West Michigan on Sunday, so that he'd be eligible for the All Star game, but no word on whether or not he'll actually be able to play in the game. Baldwin is tied for the team lead with 8 wins, and also leads the team's starters in ERA at 2.76. Steinborn hasn't been as impressive, but has thrown 2 complete games.

SS-A Oneonta 1-2, 3rd place in Stedler division
The O-Tigers got their first win of the season on Sunday with an 8-5 win over Vermont to end the 3-game set. Tom Lyons got the win, as he pitched 5 1/3 innings while allowing 2 unearned runs. 3B Juan Llamas had 2 RBI at the plate, and OF Bo Flowers had a hit and scored a pair of runs. Oneonta now kicks off a series with Tri-City.

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