Possibly the Tigers hottest pitcher still going is reliever Casey Fien, who after 3 2/3 scoreless innings this past week, is one of just ten AFL pitchers still posting an ERA of zero. With three more strikeouts in his limited work, Fien now has a total of eight in just 6 2/3 fall innings. Also heating up in the AFL, are infielders Will Rhymes and Jeff Larish. Rhymes has moved into the top ten in the league in batting average on the back of an 8-for-16 week that boosted his season line to .382. Along with piling up hits, Rhymes picked up his fourth RBI and first steal of the campaign. Larish, who continues to work out at third base in side-sessions, went 6-for-22 last week, but was 6-for-13 in his final three games; indicating that he might be settling in and swinging like he is capable of swinging. Larish's hot streak to end the week included two doubles and four RBI.
Casper Wells also had a strong finish to his week, with four hits in the final two games for Mesa over the weekend. Wells drove in his third and fourth runs of the season this week, and even swiped two more bags to bring his total to three at this early juncture. Though not dominating, relievers Rudy Darrow and Zach Simons both got the job done in clean fashion this week, combining for four innings of scoreless help with a walk and two strikeouts between them. For those that look at performance as a potential indicator of injury, Luis Marte is sending up huge red flags right now. His latest outing was ugly, as he yielded three earned runs on five hits and a walk in just three innings of work. This is going to be a situation to watch closely as we head towards the spring.
A little south of the Tigers crew in the AFL, Max Leon is trying to get things rolling in the Mexican Pacific League. Playing for Culiacan for the third year in a row, Leon is seeing daily playing time at second base. Leon started his season with a tough 3-for-17 stretch that doesn't include any extra-base hits. The bright side has him walking four times and scoring three runs already.
Out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the West Oahu CaneFires are getting nice contributions from all three Tiger representatives. Though James Skelton only collected one hit in four at-bats on the week, he did manage two more walks to keep his on-base percentage at a shiny .450 mark; good enough to rank fourth in the league. Kyle Peter was a shining star this week, though not necessarily for his hitting prowess. In a 4-for-15 week with two walks, Peter stole five bases – including three in one game – to move him into a tie for second place in the league with seven steals. The final Tiger performing well in Hawaii Winter Baseball is right-hander Andrew Hess. In four combined innings on the week, Hess yielded only one hit and two walks; dropping his sixth ranked ERA to a paltry 1.84 mark.
Heading down to the Latin winter leagues, the Dominican circuit has plenty of action from Tiger players. Brent Clevlen has been red hot since joining Escogido, going 6-for-15 in the season's first week, including three runs, a double, an RBI, two walks and a stolen base. His teammate, and free agent to be, Freddy Guzman has not fared quite as well. Going just 4-for-22 on the week and being caught stealing once already, Guzman hasn't maintained his Toledo success.
Another red-hot Tiger farm hand is infielder Erick Almonte. Like Guzman, Almonte is a free agent to be, and he's making his case for another minor league deal by going 7-for-14 to open the season. Ramon Santiago has also played well for Cibao, with a 4-for-11 kickoff to his campaign; one that includes two runs scored, two doubles, three driven in, two walks, and a stolen base. Double-A Erie infielder Caonabo Cosme (another free agent to be) has yet to appear in a game for Cibao. Rounding out the Tigers presence in the Dominican Winter Leauge, Timo Perez and Wilkin Ramirez are both manning the outfield for Licey. Timo got off to a rousing start with two bombs in the season's second game, but has no other extra base hits in his other four games. Ramirez has yet to get going, with an 0-for-8 skid to start the season.
Finally, we move down to the Venezuelan Winter League, where several Tiger big leaguers are unlikely to take the field, though still listed on rosters; including starter Armando Galarraga, new left-fielder Carlos Guillen, and slugging first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Of those that have taken the field, Guillermo Moscoso continues to impress by tossing three innings for Caracas. In his lone relief appearance, Moscoso picked up the win despite allowing two hits and an unearned run. He struck out four batters in his season debut. Joining Moscoso with Caracas is yet another free agent to be and former Tiger, outfielder Jackson Melian. Melian probably has Toledo fans wondering where this offensive outburst has come from, with a 5-for-13 performance with a double, a triple, and a home run, to start the season.
After entering the 2008 season believed to be a key member of the Tiger roster, Yorman Bazardo had a miserable season at Triple-A Toledo; even clearing waivers and being removed from the 40-man roster at one point. Bazardo will look to rebound and show teams that may be interested in him on the free agent market that he has regained his prior form. In 1 2/3 innings of relief work so far, Bazardo has allowed only an unearned run while recording two strikeouts for Aragua. Three other Detroit farm hands have yet to take the field for Anzoategui, as youngsters Lester Oliveros, Orlando Perdomo, and Alexis Espinoza are all likely to see only limited time in the Venezuelan Leauge this year.