MLN: Lakeland Update, Cruceta to Debut

After a sluggish 5-7 start to the season, Lakeland proceeded to win their next three games. Unfortunately, the team then lost three straight, retaining their fifth place spot in the FSL West standings. With the exception of one game this week, the Flying Tigers failed to produce too much with their bats. Plus, Francisco Cruceta makes his debut.

The action began on a Tuesday morning with several thousand school children cheering the team on. Throughout the season, Lakeland's offense has struggled in providing run support for the starting pitching staff. Such was not the case on this day, as the Flying Tigers notched 17 runs for starting pitcher Jonah Nickerson. The former Midwest League Pitcher of the Week surrendered two runs in five innings of work to improve his record to 1-1.

On the offensive side, Scott Sizemore and Cale Iorg each contributed a home run and four RBIs for Nickerson. Gaining noticeable attention throughout the past couple of weeks, Iorg hit a home run in all three games against Sarasota, but has since hit a cool .222, making his season average a respectable .290. Sizemore batted 4-19 for the week, drastically dropping his average to an even .300.

On Friday night, Luis Marte gained some attention by pitching seven hitless innings of baseball. He was then pulled from the game, presumably because of his pitch count. Tampa's James Cooper would go on to bunt for a hit, but Marte still registered the 4-1 win. Jeramy Laster batted 2-4 on the night with a home run and two RBIs.

Rick Porcello would bring his 0.64 ERA into the next game against the Tampa Yankees, giving up two runs in six innings of work. The Flying Tigers offense registered only three hits against Tampa pitcher Eric Hacker, handing Porcello his third loss of the season despite yet another great performance. Another interested situation ensued in the game when Porcello beaned Cooper on his first pitch in retaliation for the dirty bunt from the night before. It can be presumed that he was told to do so, and if that is the case, it further solidifies his position as a team player.

The losing streak continued on Monday night as Lakeland faced Ft. Myers and several Major League caliber pitcher. Rehabbing Twins pitcher Kevin Slowey allowed one hit in three innings of work, a solo shot to center field off the bat of Jeramy Laster. Danny Graves also pitched a scoreless eight inning, striking out one. Flying Tigers pitcher Jonah Nickerson gave up five runs in 5 and 1/3 innings of work. Lakeland has one more game in Ft. Myers and then they return home for six straight games – a series against both Dunedin and Ft. Myers.

News and Notes:

Francisco Cruceta will make his debut with the Toledo Mud Hens, starting today. Cruceta still has a couple weeks before the Tigers have to either activate him or try to pass him through waivers, and the hope is that the work he had gotten in at the Tigers' Dominican complex, as well as in extended spring training, will be enough to have him ready for Detroit.

Also, despite published reports to the contrary, Curtis Granderson will remain in West Michigan for a third game on Tuesday evening.

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