MLN: West Michigan's Fight to the Top

At 20-15 the West Michigan Whitecaps seem to have a lock on second place, for now. However, they're giving the Dayton Dragons a run for their money for the top of the Mideastern division, and are now just a game back.

The pitching staff, compared to weeks passed, is a little weak now that southpaw starter Ramon Garcia has been promoted to the high-A Lakeland Tigers Thursday, May 8. This in part leaves Alfredo Figaro to headline the 'Caps rotation until another possible arm compliments his talents.

West Michigan fans have found Figaro is human after all. His first loss of the season came on May 9, against the Lansing Lugnuts. Figaro went six innings, giving up four hits and two runs. To date his ERA is 0.80

Casper Wells has unleashed his power at plate going yard four times this past week. On May 13, he knocked two homeruns leading the 'Caps to the 11-3 slaughter of Fort Wayne.

Another monstrous hitter has been Christopher Carlson. He's on a five game hitting streak and is batting .295. He is tied in hits with center fielder Kyle Peter having poked 33.

With Garcia being promoted, the 'Caps have added RHP Brandon Hamilton and LHP Mauricio Robles from extended spring training. TigsTown rated Hamilton the Tigers No. 18 prospect after being selected by Detroit in the supplamental first round of the 2007 draft. The Deatsville, Alabama native spent last season with the Gulf Coast League Tigers. In seven games he went 1-1 with a 3.10 ERA .

Robles spent the past two seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League. He went 3-7 having a 3.28 ERA in 28 games (14 starts). He pitched 85.0 innings and has fired 103 strikeouts for the club. Robles is from Valecnia, Venezuela and was signed by Detroit as a non-drafted free agent on April 1, 2006.

Before the promotion, Garcia, on May 8, threw a three-hit complete-game shutout against Lansing, giving him a 2.81 ERA and making his mark 4-3 with the 'Caps. His fantastic pitching granted him MWL player of the week for the week of 5-11.

After the May 7 rainout last week, the 'Caps went 3-2 with another rainout occurring on May 11. Though they are five games above .500 the club seems to have trouble keeping a winning streak going, especially on the road. On the road they have split the difference and are 10-10.

With as little as West Michigan is compared to other teams in the Midwest League, the ‘Caps should be very proud of their attendance record for the 2008 season. To date they stand in fourth in the Midwest with a total of 53,808 in just 15 openings this year—an average of 3,587 per game. West Michigan loves their ‘Caps and are proud to have put another contender on the field this year.

However, behind the plate the ‘Caps are suffering a bit. Starter Joe Bowen in 14 games is hitting a low .179. His skills defensively are remarkable and he calls a good game, but the switch hitter isn't getting a hold of the ball since coming off the DL. His backup Jordan Newton , who has played a little DH, was tearing the cover off the ball batting .356 and ripping 11 RBIs before going to the DL on May 3.

All in all the Whitecaps as a whole are creating some good chemistry. They come to Fifth Third ballpark and give their fans well beyond the price of the ticket. The questions of the pitching rotation however will be answered in the weeks to come.

News and Notes: The Tigers released left-handed reliever Ed Clelland yesterday, clearing room for the return of Jordan Tata. Clelland had picked up two saves in 13 appearances out of the 'pen; working 15 1/3 innings while striking out 11 batters. Tata was moved to Lakeland's temporary inactive list after one abysmal outing on April 22nd, where he gave up four earned runs and four walks in just 2/3 of an inning. Clelland had been with the Tigers since being drafted out of Gonzaga in 2004.

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