Minor League Notebook: 7/5

It wasn't a good day for Detroit baseball. Besides the rough game for the Tigers in the Bronx, the farm teams collected a 1-3 record on the day, including the 5th straight loss for Erie - the team once thought to be the best in the Eastern League, now has fallen to 3rd place in its own division. The only victor was Oneonta, led by a recent draftee who has been leading the Oneonta offense since joining the team.

AAA Toledo 45-40, 2nd place in West division
Toledo's game on Monday was postponed. It will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Tuesday.

AA Erie 43-39, 3rd place in Southern division
The Seawolves continue their fall, after a 4-game sweep by Bowie, Erie lost again on Monday, 6-3 to Binghamton. Mark Woodyard pitched 5 innings, giving up 4 runs (but only 1 earned), largely in part to 3 errors committed by 2B Ryan Raburn (Raburn did have a Home Run however). Curtis Granderson and Jack Hannahan each had 2 hits for Erie.

One of the main issues coinciding with Erie's fall appears to be the bullpen. Roberto Novoa, a highly thought of reliever prospect, has been at the center of that - probably due to overuse. Novoa, who is 3-0 with a 3.54 ERA for the year, has been pitching very frequently as of late, with the Seawolves hoping the once steady reliever could help hold a lead in close games. But Novoa hasn't been keeping the same WHIP lately, again, probably due to overuse. He's pitched 3 times in the last 5 days, giving up 5 runs in 4 innings of work, including a WHIP of 2.00 (as opposed to his season WHIP of 1.05. Novoa, an All Star and a member of the 40-man roster who was probably on pace for a September call-up, probably needs a few games of rest to get back to where he was, and keep the Seawolves in a few games.

High-A Lakeland 5-8, 3rd place in West division
Lakeland lost again on Monday, falling to Vero Beach 6-2. Humberto Sanchez didn't pitch terribly, but still took the loss, allowing 4 runs over 6 innings of work. 2B Michael Woods made his return to the lineup with 2 hits (a double and a triple) and an RBI. DH Chris Maples also had an RBI double.

For whatever reason, Humberto Sanchez just can't get things straightened out. After an excellent start to the year (including being named Lakeland's Prospect of the Month for April by TigsTown.com), Sanchez has seen his ERA nearly double, while accumulating losses instead of wins. The poor record can fall partly on an offense that hasn't been as productive as expected, but it's certainly not the only reason. Mechanically nothing seems to be the problem - his velocity isn't down, but for whatever reason, Sanchez just isn't the dominating pitcher he showed to be earlier on. He's still a prospect in the minds of the front office, but they'd like to see a little more production from Sanchez before considering him for a promotion to Erie next season.

Low-A West Michigan 5-7, tied 4th place in Eastern division
The Whitecaps also weren't victorious on Monday, falling to in-state rival Lansing 3-2. Daniel Zell got the start, going 6 innings with only 1 run allowed, but his bullpen couldn't hold it - Kenon Ronz would take the loss for the run he allowed in his 1/3 of an inning. The Whitecap offense certainly didn't give the pitching staff much to work with though, as the only source of offense was a 2-run Home Run that tied the game in the 8th inning by 3B Kody Kirkland.

As has been mentioned many times, Kirkland has been one of this season's biggest mysteries. An incredibly slow start hindered him, but even now, he's still only hitting .221/.250/.382, certainly not what the Tiger front offense was hoping for. Kirkland obviously hasn't had the year the Tigers were hoping for, either at the plate or in the field. Kirkland's ticket to the majors has always been his bat, so don't be surprised if in the offseason the Tigers make the switch with Kirkland and send him to the Outfield, where there will be less defensive pressure and more time to concentrate on hitting - a move they made with Neil Jenkins, with mixed results.

SS-A Oneonta 9-8, 2nd place in Stedler division
Not all was bad for the Tiger farm system, as Oneonta was able to pull out a 9-8 win over Aberdeen on Monday. 2003 draftee Josh Rainwater got the start, going 5 innings with 2 earned runs and 3 strikeouts. Ezequil Perez got the win at the back end of the game, despite allowing 3 runs in his inning of work. Jeff Frazier, the Tigers 2004 3rd round pick, was the hero, with a 2-run triple in the bottom of the 9th to give the O-Tigers the win. Frazier went 2-for-4 with 3 RBI for the game. 3B Juan Llamas also went 2-for-4 with 3 RBI.

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