Minor League Pitchers of the Month: April

Pitching may be one of the primary concerns at the Major League level, but down on the farm, there are several hurlers who have thrown together impressive first months. From minor league veterans, to recent draftees, to some of the youngest players in the system, the Tiger's system has seen some inspired efforts to start the new season.

The Toledo Mud Hens saw newcomer Sean Douglass post one of the most dominating stretches of mound mastery the team has ever seen. In four April starts, Douglass tossed 24 innings, allowing only 15 hits and 2 earned runs, resulting in a 0.74 ERA and a .174 batting average against. Douglass has spent time in both the Baltimore and Toronto organizations, but he has never put together a stretch of games as dominating as this. If Sean continues to put up numbers even close to this, it will not be if, but rather when will we see him in Detroit.

Despite the offensive struggles of the team in AA-Erie, lefty Rob Henkel managed a 4-1 month with a 1.30 ERA. Since returning from yet another surgery last season, Henkel has displayed the talent that had scouts drooling coming out of college. The key for Henkel's success this season will be continued health. If he can remain on the mound, he will almost certainly see time with Toledo and maybe even Detroit if the need arises. Rob has always had the talent to be a top notch pitcher, and now fans are getting to see the results of that talent. If his harm holds up, expect to see more electric results.

Well, everyone knew Justin Verlander had an incredible fastball, but nobody expected the results we have seen so far. The organization worked with Justin last fall and this spring to correct some mechanical flaws, and as a result, many were expecting some early season struggles. Justin has put that to rest by posting a 3-1 mark in 4 starts with a ridiculous 1.17 ERA in 23 innings, with only 5 walks and 30 strikeouts. Verlander has been so dominating; many are considering him the top pitcher in the Florida State League so far this season. With continued success, Verlander could see Erie by the end of June.

In an effort to keep up with the global race for baseball talent, the Tigers ventured to the Netherlands to find right-handed pitcher Jair Jurrjens. All Jurrjens has done in his first taste of full-season ball is post an amazing first month, including a 1.17 ERA in 23 innings, yielding only 14 hits. Jair's impressive start is even more amazing considering he is only 19 years old, much younger than the majority of his competition. Jurrjens' strikeout rates have taken a slight hit, but that is likely an adjustment to a more competitive league.

The Tigers will need an abundance of pitching to compete over the long haul, and they appear to be stockpiling talent down on the farm. If April is any indication of what is in store for the big club, the coming years could be exciting, not just because of the players highlighted above, but because they were the results of some highly competitive races for the TigsTown.com Minor League Pitcher of the Month Awards.

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