As the Major League bullpen continues to struggle, it becomes incumbent upon us to start paying attention to potential options at the minor league level. Francis Beltran is already up with the big club, sending Ryan Raburn to Toledo, but let's look at some other options and how they are performing early on.
At Triple-A Toledo, lefty Clay Rapada appears to be past his shoulder problems, firing three perfect innings with three strikeouts. Blaine Neal -- signed out of an open tryout last month -- has worked two scoreless innings late in games, striking out two, without walking a batter. While he is currently working in the rotation, right-hander Armando Galarraga is throwing strikes more regularly and may be a viable bullpen option.
Looking at the other team in the high minors, Erie has a couple of options as well. After his impressive spring performance, Casey Fien has worked one rough inning, giving up two hits and a walk without allowing a run. Also making his presence known, Matt Rusch continues to impress by working three innings of relief with four strikeouts and only one hit allowed.
As the season moves forward, we will continue tracking all the potential bullpen options that could help the Tigers hold late inning leads.
Posted by: Mark Anderson, 4/6
April 5th Games
AAA Toledo Mud Hens – TOLEDO 6, DURHAM 1
3-0, 1st in West division
AA Erie SeaWolves – GM1: ERIE 3, BOWIE 2
GM2: ERIE 9, BOWIE 6
3-0, t-1st in West division
A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers – LAKELAND 4,CLEARWATER 3
2-1, N/A in West division
A West Mich. Whitecaps – WEST MICH. 5, SOUTH BEND 4
3-0, 1st in Eastern division
One random strange phenomenon, despite going a perfect 5-for-5 on the day, not a single starter got a win. The Mud Hens offense cruised to another win, led by Jeff Larish, who launched two homers, along with Mike Hessman who ripped a pair of doubles. Larish currently has the early lead in the International League with three home rusn, as well as seven RBI and a 1.167 slugging percentage. Only downside - Macay McBride made it through only one inning before exiting with a leg injury. Jeremy Johnson and Clay Rapada picked up the slack - McBride's status is still unknown at this point.
In making up their opener, the 'Wolves picked up a pair of wins. Jeff Frazier had four hits and three walks between the two games, while Freddy Guzman drove in four runs in the second game. Luke French and Ben Fritz each turned in six solid innings, but the 'pen picked up the win in both games.
Jonah Nickerson didn't make it five innings so he didn't get the win, but he only gave up two runs in his first start. Scott Sizemore had three more hits as he continues his hot streak to open the season (hitting .667 so far). Justin Justice also added a two run homer.
Manny Miguelez only gave up one run, but struggled with his control, walking more than he struck out. Mark McBratney had three hits and two RBI at the plate, including driving in the go-ahead run.
Posted by: Wez, 4/6
April 4th Games
AAA Toledo Mud Hens – TOLEDO 9, DURHAM 2
2-0, 1st in West division
AA Erie SeaWolves – ERIE 8, BOWIE 3 (11)
1-0, 2nd in West division
A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers – TAMPA 5, LAKELAND 4
1-1, N/A in West division
A West Mich. Whitecaps – WEST MICH. 2, SOUTH BEND 1
2-0, t-1st in Eastern division
The Mud Hens cruised to a win on Friday evening - newcomer Armando Galarraga pitched five shutout innings, and Jeff Larish helped power the offense with a home run and three RBI. But those numbers couldn't compare to another Jeff - Jeff Frazier, who made a big splash in his return to the organization, going 4-for-6 with a home run and five RBI.
The Flying Tigers suffered their first loss - Duane Below turned in a decent first start, but Brendan Wise couldn't hold the lead and took the loss. Scott Sizemore went 3-for-3, including a solo home run. Brennan Boesch, despite only hitting .143 right now, drove in his third run of the season.
Finally, the 'Caps needed a ninth inning rally to win on Friday - scoring two runs in the ninth - ironically, both the tying and go-ahead run reached base on errors, with Kyle Peter scoring the tying run, and Justin Henry the go-ahead.
Posted by: Wez, 4/5
April 3rd Games
AAA Toledo Mud Hens – TOLEDO 3, DURHAM 2
1-0, t-1st in West division
AA Erie SeaWolves – PPD: WEATHER
0-0, 1st in Southern division
A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers – LAKELAND 4, TAMPA 1
1-0, t-1st in West division
A West Mich. Whitecaps – WEST MICH. 15, SOUTH BEND 2
1-0, t-1st in Eastern division
The story of Minor League Opening Day had to be Rick Porcello, who pitched five shutout innings for Lakeland. It's not often that an Opening Day starter that gives up a run, earns a win, and strikes out eight can be completely over-shadowed, but that's what happened to Virgil Vasquez by Porcello. The good news; both teams still walked away with wins.
Porcello gave up just one hit, no runs, and recorded three strikeouts along with nine ground ball outs. Often times, the concern is that hot shot prospects can't live up to the hype. It's safe to say in his debut, Porcello likely exceeded those lofty expectations.
And of course, you can't overlook the West Michigan offense, which put up 15 (FIFTEEN!) runs on South Bend, including ten in the first frame alone. Every member of the lineup had at least one hit and scored at least one run, with the top of the order (OF Kyle Peter and 2B Justin Henry) combining for six runs and five RBI.
Posted by: Wez, 4/4