This week the Lakeland Flying Tigers faced the best pitching staff and the worst pitching staff in the Florida State League. The results were an even .500 record and a glimmer of hope for the offense to contribute.
It's been a rough start to the year swinging the lumber for the Lakeland Flying Tigers, and the best remedy for struggling bats is to face struggling pitchers. The Dunedin Blue Jays have been in the cellar in team ERA all season and that's exactly what the Flying Tigers needed to break out of their slump. They scored more runs in their three games against Dunedin (21) then their last nine games combined (18).
There was even a little carry over into the series against Brevard County's pitching prowess. No one would say scoring just six runs in a three game series would be a success, though when you scored just two runs the week prior against the Manatees it's a little reason to anticipate better results.
The biggest factor in the lineup has been the emergence of Kody Kaiser. After having an atrocious start, Kaiser went on a tear this week. Kaiser went 10-for-22 this week with four extra base hits and almost drew as many walks (3) as he struck out (5). Throughout the week Kaiser either had a key hit or worked a walk in a key situation.
In the field Kaiser had a lackluster week. In a week where the team totaled eight errors in six games shows Kaiser wasn't the only one. Against Brevard County every error gets magnified. Both of Kaiser's errors turned into runs on the board in a close contest. Both errors turned singles into doubles. He was hardly to blame for the teams fielding transgressions, though if Kaiser can build on this hot streak his fielding lapses will be forgiven more readily.
With the promotions of Shawn Roof, Jeff Kunkel and Andy Dirks the lineup has had a lot of new faces. The player that's stirred the most conversations by scouts is Avisail Garcia. At just 17 years old he's one of the youngest players competing in the Florida State League. At 6-foot-3-inches he just looks like an imposing threat and a real ball player. He only started one game this week but in the start he did have a clutch hit in a one run game in the bottom of the ninth against Brevard County's closer, though he was left stranded.
It was a tough assignment to be a catcher this week. With Dunedin's Darin Mastroiannis league's most prolific base stealer and going against Brevard County, the team with the most stolen bases in the league, it was a tall order. With Adrian Casanova and Jordan Newton splitting time this week the shared the burden of the load and both performed admirably. They combined for a 5-for-13 caught stealing and considering they allowed 11 stolen bases just last weekend against Brevard County it was a marked improvement.
In a season where Robbie Weinhardt has looked almost unhittable he looked a little human this week. Weinhardt allowed his first earned run of the year which led to the loss against Dunedin. When you give up your first run in May it's hard to complain but he never even looked hittable before. Against Dunedin he gave up three hits and hit a batter in just an inning and a third. It was most likely just a fluke that all relievers go through especially when his next appearance he struck out two in an inning of work.
If there are any other lapses Andy Barkett has another toy in his pen to use with Chad Linder. Linder is another new face in the Lakeland clubhouse. His first outing was in the top of the ninth against Brevard County with runners in scoring position, and he kept them in the game by throwing a clean inning. The first batter he faced he got him to strike out on a curve out of the zone then after an intentional pass then forced a convenient 1-2-3 double play to cease the threat. Linder's fastball sits at 91-93 mph and his breaking ball was clocked at 78 mph. If Linder can locate his pitches he could be a cog in an already solid pen.