TigsTown MLN: Wolves' Pitching Staff in Disarray

The Erie SeaWolves have continued to wait on their offense to emerge, as it has shown signs of life in the past week. But what everyone is really interested in is the health of a pair of starters down in extended spring training, and just when exactly Tiger fans can expect them back. Plus, which pitcher is extremely frustrated with his current role in the organization.

The SeaWolves had marked their April with strong pitching, but just as poor hitting that kept the team from getting off to a hot start. But now that May has rolled around, the offense is up, and is a big reason for the ‘Wolves 6-3 record so far in the month of May.

The offense has been led by David Espinosa, who continues to power the SeaWolves offense. Some might have expected Espinosa's offense to slow down a bit, but he has yet to do any of that as he's now raised his OPS over 1.100 (1.108).

Don Kelly has also kept up his hot hitting through the first month, carrying a .340 average, being tied for the team lead in home runs, and being 3rd in RBI with 19.

Unfortunately, all hasn't been great. After overcoming an early season shoulder injury, Tony Giarratano has shown glimpses, but still hasn't seen the offensive production many were expecting from him, as his average remains below the Mendoza line. It's possible that after such a great spring, Giarratano simply began to press and placed undue pressure on himself to produce and get himself to the big leagues as fast as possible. Tony needs to get back to relaxing at the plate and letting things come to him, a mantra that helped make him the top prospect that he is.

Another hitter that hasn't gotten out of the gate well is Juan Tejeda, who despite leading the team in RBI has just a .210 average. Things were made worse last week when Tejeda suffered an injury to his quad that has sidelined him since May 4th. He was placed on the disabled list retroactive to May 4th, but is likely still at least a few days before recovering.

And more bad news on the injury front; John Birtwell has been delayed in his recovery from tendonitis and will see his return delayed at least a few days. Birtwell has started throwing again in side sessions in the bullpen, but is still experiencing some pain, so his return to the club will be put off once again.

Meanwhile, with the injuries that everyone is concerned about, there is still little to report. Humberto Sanchez continues to work his way back, but might make at least a couple starts in extended spring training to test his arm, and his endurance, before he gets moved up. Kyle Sleeth hasn't made the same progress though, and will likely be in Lakeland at least through the end of the month, as the Tigers want to be especially careful with their prized first round pick from 2003. Unfortunately, the injury likely rules out the chance of Sleeth making his big league debut some time this season, a realistic thought by many when he signed in the summer of '03.

One pitcher who hasn't battled injuries, but is unhappy nonetheless is Erie lefty Mike Bynum. Bynum, who has spent the past three seasons in AAA or the majors, has been frustrated with his current role, and was especially frustrated after being promoted to Toledo, only to be returned to Erie days later. Bynum requested to be released, but the Tigers refused to grant it, so unless Bynum is promoted once again, he'll likely be a SeaWolf until July 1st, at which point Bynum can opt out of his contract because he's not on the AAA or major league roster.

Wrapping it up with a little mentioned reliever, Edwin Almonte has received almost no recognition for his performance so far this season, but the 28-year old has simply gone about his business, and he now leads the Eastern League with 10 saves, led by four saves in the nine games the team has had so far in May. Almonte, who was added to provide experience and a reliable arm for the ‘Wolves' bullpen, has done just that.

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