Minor League Notebook: 8/2

The Tiger farm system managed a 4-4 day for the organization - although all the wins came from A-ball and down, neither Toledo or Erie were able to manage wins as they battle for possible playoff spots. Meanwhile, a pair of starters who just recently won prospect of the month for their respective teams in July didn't get off to such great starts in August.

AAA Toledo 59-52, 1st place in West division
After a great run, the Mudhens are on a slide - losing 4 of their last 5, including a 9-7 loss in extra innings to Norfolk on Monday. Franklyn German gave up a pair of runs in the top of the 10th to take the loss, after Andy Van Hekken gave a mediocre performance - 5 1/3 innings, 5 earned runs, 3 strikeouts. At the plate, the Mudhens were led by Craig Monroe, who in just his 2nd rehab game exploded, going 3-for-5 with 2 Home Runs and 4 RBI. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. Brandon Harper and Brant Ust also had Home Runs, but that just pushed it into extra innings where German lost it for the Mudhens.

Monroe's offensive explosion shows that despite his surprising (and not in a good way) numbers this season, Monroe still has some power in his bat. Some believe that Monroe was so conscious of his less-than-stellar average last season, that he's been too concerned with making contact and getting on base, and less worried with hitting the ball hard. The Tigers have a big group of average Outfielders, with none really showing anything great over the other. So if Monroe expects to start getting consistent at bats again, he'll need to repeat his power display from Tuesday night.

AA Erie 56-49, 2nd place in Southern division
Everyone was average for Erie on Monday, and that wasn't good enough to beat Portland, as they fell 4-3. Matt Roney took the loss, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits in 6 1/3 innings. Roney also walked 3 and struck out just 1. As far as the offense went, the Seawolves weren't able to put much together, managing just 3 hits. All the runs came from a 3-run Home Run by Curtis Granderson in the 9th inning.

After a first half in which Granderson did everything but hit for power, he seems determined to change that for the final month of the season. The same can't be said for Matt Roney, who had an excellent start to the season but just can't seem to put anything together as of late. 4 runs in 6 1/3 innings certainly isn't poor - but 3 walks compared with just 1 strikeout is. Roney's not exactly a power pitcher, but his control certainly hasn't been as good as one might have hoped for, especially after the move down to the minors after last season with the Tigers. If Roney ever hopes to get back into the rotation, he'll need to improve his control significantly.

High-A Lakeland 15-23, 5th place in West division
The L-Tigers were able to get a split of their doubleheader on Monday against Brevard County in a pair of 7 inning games. Lakeland was victorious in the first game, 9-8, despite a rough outing for Joel Zumaya. Zumaya made it just 3 innings, giving up 7 runs (5 earned), although he did strike out 6. Lakeland got Home Runs from Tony Giarratano and Chris Maples, and a 2-run double from 3B Scott Moore. In the 2nd game, the Tigers got a much better starting performance from Humberto Sanchez, but ended up taking the loss 3-1. Sanchez pitched all 6 innings, giving up 3 runs with 6 strikeouts and just 1 walk. Lakeland managed 6 hits, but converted that into just 1 run off of a Chris Maples single.

Humberto Sanchez doesn't receive quite the fanfare that Zumaya does, but with the exception of one bad month, he's had a very impressive season, despite the 11 losses his record carries. Sanchez is a bit wild, but leads the team with 115 strikeouts, possessing both a solid fastball in the low 90's and developing offspeed pitches that are already servicable. If Sanchez can work on his control and keep the ball around the zone (he leads the team with 12 wild pitches, and is 2nd with 51 walks), he could take the next step up to a high-caliber prospect.

Low-A West Michigan 15-21, 5th place in Eastern division
The Whitecaps had an offensive explosion en route to a 17-7 pounding of Dayton. Christhian Martinez didn't have his best start, allowing 5 earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, but Daniel Zell came on in relief to get the win, giving up a run in 2 1/3 innings. The Whitecaps got a huge game at the plate from Kody Kirkland, as he went 4-for-5, falling just a single short of the cycle. He had a double, 2 triples and a Home Run as well as 6 RBI. 2B Eric Rodland also went 2-for-4 with 4 runs scored and 3 RBI. Juan Francia, Luis Sabino and Vincent Blue also each had 2 hits apiece.

Kirkland continues his late season offensive surge, with a huge game on Tuesday. He's gotten extremely hot in just the last week to 10 days, so it's hard to tell if this is just a fluke or a sign that Kirkland has regained his swing from the beginning of the 2003 season with Oneonta. With the big game, Kirkland's slugging percentage jumped to .413, which puts him at 2nd on the team, behind just Garth McKinney. His defense is still poor, and he still strikes out far too much, but his patience is getting better, and more importantly, he's starting to look like the top prospect of a year ago.

SS-A Oneonta 21-20, 2nd place in Stedler division
The O-Tigers got a win on Monday, beating Lowell 3-1. Nate Bumstead had another impressive start, getting his 2nd win, pitching 7 strong innings, giving up 1 run on 7 hits with 7 strikeouts. At the plate, C Justin Barnes went 2-for-3 with a solo Home Run. Justin Justice and Francisco Castro also each had 2 hits apiece for Oneonta.

Rookie GCL Tigers 19-18, tied 2nd place in Northern division
The GCL Tigers split a doubleheader, much like the L-Tigers did, beating the GCL Phillies in the first game, but falling in the 2nd. Jay Sborz had a solid start in the first, giving up 2 runs in 5 2/3 innings with 7 strikeouts. Jeramy Laster went 3-for-4 with an RBI for the GCL Tigers, including 2 doubles. Stephen Young also had a solo Home Run in the leadoff slot.

The rookie club wasn't quite as successful in the 2nd game, losing 7-1. Wilkins got hit hard and put the GCL Tigers in a tough hole, giving up 5 runs in just 2/3 of an inning. The team couldn't get much going offensively either, managing just 4 hits, only one of which for extra bases - and that was a double by Brandon Timm.

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