MLN: West Michigan Fights Past Key Injuries

All is right in West Michigan once again. The second half of the season seemed all out of sorts coming off All Star break, but with key player additions and short winning streaks the Whitecaps are holding their own again.

Now it wouldn't be right to start off the recap the West Michigan players without mentioning the big name first. Alfredo Figaro, yes, the 6'0 consistent throwing righty has made his mark in the Midwest. Figaro is 11-2 with a 1.78 ERA. Can he be stopped? Most batters think not.

Since May 16, Figaro has gone six-plus innings pitched in his last eight starts. His last start—July 6—Figaro pitched seven innings, giving up two runs, walking two and fanning five in his earned eleventh win. His next scheduled start is July 12 against the Peoria Chiefs.

2008 draftee Alex Avila is showing his Crimson Tide senior season performance was no fluke. July 5, Avila drove in the go-ahead hit to bring in Joe Tucker for a 3-2 win over fourth place Dayton. Avila's go-ahead hit was the eighteenth time this season the Whitecaps have won by a single run in the final inning of play. Avila is the only 2008 draft pick to be making progress for the ‘Caps so far. In 17 games the Florida native is hitting .237 with 14 hits, seven RBI and 15 strikeouts. Though not great numbers, the drafted catcher hopes to improve on what seems to be a rise in productivity.

If someone could sum up the ‘Caps' main weakness for this second half the obvious reply would be "injuries". Chris Carlson has been out since June 14; Roger Tomas has been out since June 28 and 2008 draftee Andy Dirks has been out since June 22. All three are big hitters that the ‘Caps need in the middle of the line up. Without Carlson and Tomas the team lacks the consistent bats to carry them to marginal victories, which in return makes their pitchers work that much harder.

Certain players have stepped up though. Joe Tucker being one of these players. Since returning to the ‘Caps, Tucker has been the essential go-to-guy, filling the holes left by injuries and roster adjustments. Tucker had back-to-back days of success last week when he singled in Justin Henry in the bottom of the seventh—July 3— for the winning run in a 1-0 victory over Fort Wayne. The next day Tucker came through for his team again when he reached base off a single in the bottom of the twelfth inning just to score the winning run on a wild pitch by Robert Woodard in a 4-3 Independence Day win over Fort Wayne once again. Tucker's versatility and productive bat are holding the ‘Caps up for now.

Kody Kaiser is a name that floats, almost undetected, throughout game recaps. With a small frame (5'9 185 pounds) Kaiser doesn't look like your typical offensive threat. Don't let this switch hitter fool you, he's a type of player manager Joe DePastino loves floating in the lineup. With runners on Kaiser is batting .299 with 32 RBI. He is usually seen in the lineup as a designated hitter as of late, but it's normal to see him in the outfield at times too.

Third baseman Ronnie Bourquin has started off the month of July hot. He's batting .320 this month with four doubles and four RBI. Bourquin has proved to be inconsistent in the past, but the ‘Caps need all the help they can get until Carlson and Tomas return, which right now, doesn't look to be anytime soon.

West Michigan is climbing out of the cellar, but is that enough? It's been said pitching can carry a team, well, with Figaro, Jon Kibler and pen favorites: "The Arrow" Darrow and Noah Krol this might be a load too big to carry.

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