Minor League Notebook: 7/7

While the Tigers were celebrating their first series victory over the Yankees in the Bronx in 8 years, the minor league clubs went 2-2 on the day. Toledo moved within a half game of the division lead, while West Michigan was finally able to win a close game. On the down side, Erie had one of the worst defensive performances of the season, never giving Preston Larrison a chance to help the Seawolves get a win.

AAA Toledo 48-40, 2nd place in West division
The Mudhens took another one on Wednesday to move within half a game of first place Columbus, beating Pawtucket 4-2 behind a big outing from Pat Ahearne. Ahearne, who got the win to go to 7-7 on the year, went 7 2/3 innings, spreading out 5 hits while giving up 1 earned run. He also struck out 10. At the plate, Chris Shelton continues to hit in AAA, going 2-for-4 with an RBI. C Brandon Harper, promoted from AA Erie to take Mike DiFelice's spot, went 2-for-3 with a Home Run and 2 RBI.

Despite an occasional rough outing, Pat Ahearne is still one of the main reasons why Toledo currently holds the best record in the Tiger organization. Now 7-7 with a 3.41 ERA, Ahearne, despite his age, might still get a chance to pitch in Detroit at some point this season. The seasoned veteran obviously isn't viewed as a top prospect or a long term solution in any capacity, but the righty could still see time in Detroit's bullpen, especially if the Tigers turn out to be sellers instead of buyers.

AA Erie 44-40, 3rd place in Southern division
Another game, and another loss for the Seawolves, who are now just 4 games above .500. The pitching wasn't especially impressive in the 12-9 loss, but 5 errors by the Seawolves certainly didn't help the cause. Preston Larrison got the loss, only lasting 4 innings. He gave up 8 runs, but only 1 was earned. Roberto Novoa relieved him, and gave up another 3 runs in an inning of work, but none of those runs were earned either. The players tried to make up for their defensive shortcomings at the plate, but it just wasn't enough. Ryan Raburn and Jason Knoedler each had a Home Run, and Anderson Hernandez contributed 2 hits and 2 runs at the top of the order.

Well, after a long stretch where Preston Larrison was arguably Erie's best starter, he's struggled again. Larrison seems to be showing that he's the type of pitcher that can pitch well when no one is looking and he can just relax and pitch. But when all eyes are on him, and big things are expected of him, he just can't keep his cool at the plate. Larrison still has a solid ERA (3.36), but his strikeout to walk ratio isn't real impressive (1.61) and he's given up 5 or more runs in 3 of his last 5 outings (although the errors certainly were a problem on Wednesday). If the Seawolves hope to get back on track this season, they'll need Larrison to be the pitcher that drew comparisons to a young Nate Cornejo, and not the current Cornejo.

High-A Lakeland 5-9, 3rd place in West division
The L-Tigers was postponed due to weather, they'll make it up on Thursday in a day night doubleheader.

Low-A West Michigan 6-8, tied 3rd in Eastern division
After a pair of tough losses, the Whitecaps finally pulled out a close one, beating the Lugnuts by a run, 4-3. Virgil Vasquez got the win, going 5 2/3 innings, giving up 3 runs with 4 strikeouts. But the bullpen was able to hold on this time, and the Whitecaps held on. C Danilo Sanchez had a Home Run, and CF Vincent Blue went 2-for-3 with an RBI.

After a stellar campaign in short season ball, Vincent Blue hasn't been able to take the next step as a prospect. He certainly hasn't faltered like fellow Whitecap Kody Kirkland has, but he seems to be playing just well enough for it not to be considered a bad year for him. His OPS is below .700 (.688), his defense hasn't been great, and he hasn't been stealing bases like what was expected. In 2003, his average was higher, he looked sharper in the field, and he was hitting for more extra base hits. But it appears as the pitching gets tougher, Blue struggles more. The 21-year old is in his 4th year of professional baseball, so sooner or later (and sooner rather than later) he's going to need to learn to hit an offspeed pitch.

SS-A Oneonta 9-10, 2nd place in Stedler division
Oneonta lost again on Wednesday, falling to Aberdeen 4-3 in extra innings. Lavon Lewis pitched 7 innings for Oneonta, allowing 3 runs and getting the no decision after he lost his lead in the top of the 8th. 3B Juan Llamas had 2 hits and 2 RBI for the O-Tigers, and Jeff Frazier also had a run scored and an RBI.


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