TigsTown MLN: 'Wolves Off to Hot Start

It wasn't that long ago that the Erie SeaWolves were celebrating a Southern Division title and now they have started the 2008 season. A lot has changed since then. Matt Walbeck is the third base coach for the Texas Rangers, Clete Thomas is on the Detroit Tigers opening day roster and Jeff Larish is off to a hot start in the International League for the Toledo Mud Hens.

Tom Brookens replaces Walbeck as the manager of the year just one season after winning a Midwest League title and being named "Manager of the Year". Freddy Guzman will play Center field in place of Clete Thomas and Ryan Roberson will play first in place of Larish. Twelve players are returning to Erie to start the season including pitchers Jon Connolly, Andrew Kown and Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez. Highly touted prospect Danny Worth will also rejoin the 'Wolves after playing the final four games and all of the playoffs with Erie last year.

The names and faces of the franchise may have changed but the results are just as impressive. The 'Wolves opened up the season with a four game sweep of the Bowie Baysox. Erie had their way with Bowie last year as well, going 16-7 in 23 games against the Baysox. The 'Wolves used both a potent offense and good pitching outscoring the Baysox 25-11 in the four game set. It hasn't been just one or two guys producing it has been a complete team effort.

Jeff Frazier has led the 'Wolves offensive barrage going 9-for-17 with a home run and six RBI in his first four games. Frazier was once a highly touted prospect in the Tigers organization but was traded to the Mariners in 2007 after a disappointing 2006 season. The Tigers re-signed Frazier to a minor league contract in the off-season and he has taken advantage of his fresh start with the SeaWolves.

Wilkin Ramirez returned to the 'Wolves with huge expectations and he too is off to a hot start to the season. He leads the team with two home runs in only four games played. He is batting .316 and four RBI, tying him in second on the team. Ramirez has battled through numerous injuries and a position change and seems ready to realize his full potential for the first time.

It's not only Frazier and Ramirez putting up big numbers early, Max St. Pierre, Will Rhymes and Deik Scram are all off to hot starts. St. Pierre leads the team with a .571 batting average, adding a double and three RBI in his seven at bats. Deik Scram is hoping he can build on his strong season in Single A by following it off with a good season in Double A and he is off to a good start. Scram has three doubles and three RBI with a .278 batting average. Will Rhymes doesn't get the publicity that some of the other prospects get but he is quietly getting the job done, hitting three doubles and a triple in 15 at bats.

The offense has been impressive but the pitching has been equally as good so far. The 'Wolves have received good starts from each of their four starting pitchers, although only Andrew Kown has earned a victory. Kown pitched six scoreless innings and allowed only three hits in earning the victory. Kown spent the early part of 2007 in the Erie bullpen until joining the rotation for the second half of the season. Kown made 19 starts last season and he was 6-8 with a 4.13 ERA.

In addition to good starting pitching the bullpen as been good as well allowing only four runs and nine hits in 14 innings. Matt Rusch pitched three innings in his one appearance, allowing only one hit while striking out three. Danny Zell has made two appearances and has allowed only one hit in 2.1 innings pitched. Zell also has earned his first save of the season. Anthony Tomey, Juan Cedeno and Josh Rainwater all earned victories in relief and are 1-0 to start the season.

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