TigsTown MLN: 'Hens Have Options for Tigers

Toledo has historically not held a lot of the Tigers top prospects; the great ones seem to move quickly, and only make a short stay (if any at all) at Toledo. However, the Tigers have a handful of players this season that are certainly making their case for earning a shot in the big leagues.

Josh Phelps was signed in the offseason to provide a big bat in the middle of the lineup, and he's done just that. After a bit of a slow start, Phelps has really turned things around, with four home runs, 11 doubles and 16 RBI over the past four weeks. It's likely little coincidence that over that period Phelps saw his walk rates take a jump. How big? Try a walk one every 7.4 at bats. His hard-hitting makes him a legit candidate for the Tigers if they need to add a bat with some pop to the bench.

Another player that has really turned it on as of late is Ryan Raburn, who just one month ago was quickly falling out of favor as he was continuing to struggle defensively at second base, and his offense wasn't producing at a good level at any position, let alone in left field where they contemplated moving him.

But two weeks ago, something clicked, and Raburn's been on a tear ever since. What's he done since then? Just been slugging .782 over that stretch, while raising his on base percentage from .318 to .373. Raburn hasn't been hitting with authority like this since the summer of 2004, when he hit his way straight from Jerry Uht Park to a cameo appearance in Detroit.

If he keeps this up, he'll likely get another shot in the big leagues, though it may not come with Detroit. With the way the team is playing (including utility infielder Omar Infante, who is hitting .306 in limited time), Raburn could become a prime candidate to be included as part of a deadline trade to bring in some help at the big league level.

Ryan Ludwick was another veteran player brought in to help out in Toledo, and if he hit lefty, likely would have already found himself in Detroit considering the struggles from Dmitri Young. Ludwick to his credit is simply hitting the cover off the ball; he's raised his OPS every week since the start of the season, and was sitting at .910 at week's end. Ludwick leads the entire team with 22 extra base hits, including 14 doubles which is good for 3rd in the International League.

Moving over to the pitching side of things, where the star has been Zach Miner. Miner has been virtually flawless for the ‘Hens, going 6-0 with a 2.18 ERA. His 6 wins are tied for the most in the IL, and he's displayed solid control all spring long. As has been stated previously, if this were 2003 and the Tigers were in dire need of a reliable starter, Miner would probably already be in Detroit. But as it is, Miner will continue to cruise along in Toledo, waiting for the Tigers to give him a shot.

As was mentioned with Raburn, Miner could be yet another candidate to be included in a deadline deal should the Tigers decide they need to go out and make an upgrade somewhere.

Much has been made of Eulogio de la Cruz's initial struggles followed by many strong weeks following. Well, Mark Woodyard has had much the same go for him with a very strong past few weeks, even though the average fan wouldn't notice it as his ERA is still above six. But since the tough start, over his last 9 innings, Woodyard has allowed just one earned run, with seven strikeouts and two walks. Woodyard was a dark horse candidate to win a bullpen job for the Tigers, and while he obviously lost out on that, if Woodyard can continue to pitch well, he could become a candidate the next time a reliever is needed.

Colby Lewis is yet another pitcher that has had a bright start for the ‘Hens. After missing almost two full years, Lewis is back in action and doing well. Over his last five starts he has a 2.45 ERA, even though he hasn't seen the same results record-wise as Miner has. His K:BB ratio has remained over two and his WHIP is down. Lewis may never reach the same levels he was at when he was pitching for Texas, but he's certainly moving in the right direction.

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