TigsTown MLN: Stars Highlight Flying Tigers

The Flying Tigers were 3-3 on the week, making their overall record 37-36. The second half of the season also started this week, and Lakeland is currently tied for second place in the FSL West with a record of 2-2. The big story this week revolved around two high profile names sporting Lakeland uniforms for the first time: Gary Sheffield and Dontrelle Willis.

Sheffield joined the team to rehab his strained left oblique and took the role of designated hitter for five games. Over those five games, the Major League veteran batted 2-13 for an average of .154. His only two hits were both home runs. In his first appearance in front of the home crowd and also uncle Dwight Gooden, Sheffield swung at the second pitch on both of his first two at bats and flied out. The third at bat he drew a walk and then finally he was walked intentionally. In his second home game and final rehab game in Lakeland he hit a home run.

Despite hitting poorly, Sheffield did manage to score runs on five of his walks. He didn't appear to be exerting himself too hard, but in the same respect, one would believe that the organization doesn't want to rush anything. The second high profile name to join the team this week is Dontrelle Willis. Baseball analysts expect the southpaw to spend a significant amount of time with the club, also not wanting to rush anything. Willis has been in uniform and in the dugout with the team but has yet to pitch any with the club.

One individual who did pitch with the club this week was Tigers top prospect Rick Porcello. Lasting 5 and 2/3 innings against Tampa while giving up only three earned runs, the rookie ace notched his second no decision in two starts. Porcello's ERA has climbed to almost three, but there should be no concern for fans. His fastball is still reaching 95-97 MPH on the stadium's radar gun and he is mixing in several lethal pitches including a slurve.

The best pitching outing of the week was probably that of Jonah Nickerson. Striking out six batters and giving up zero runs in seven innings of work, Nickerson mimicked several of his impressive performances from earlier in the season and also broke a streak of three straight no-decisions in the process. Some scouts have stated that Nickerson doesn't really possess any pitching that separates him from the rest of the competition, but it seems that FSL hitters aren't figuring him out. Perhaps Double-A ball would provide a more accurate assessment of the 23 year old right hander.

On the offensive side, Jeramy Laster added to his league leading home run total, pulling away from the rest of the pack with an impressive seventeen home runs on the season. Laster managed only four hits this week, with three of them being home runs. Unfortunately, he still leads the league in strikeouts with a remarkable 110 whiffs. While his swing is unusually long, it seems to be only a part of the problem. Laster honestly just needs better plate discipline.

The only other offensive performance worth mentioning this week comes from Cale Iorg who batted 8-24 for a .333 average this week. Only two of those hits were for extra bases, with both of them being doubles. The Flying Tigers will stay at home this week to finish their eight game home stand against Jupiter and Daytona.


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