Erie MLN: Yesterday is in the Past

One of the things that I love about baseball is that it doesn't care about yesterday. You go out on Monday and strike out three times and you can be back out there to get ‘em tomorrow. You don't have to wait a week to redeem yourself. All it takes is for it to click one time and all of the sudden your back in the saddle again.

On the other hand, it can fall apart just as quickly, without explanation. We started to see that with Alfredo Figaro. In April he didn't look like he belonged in Erie. We use the phrase ‘he's a man amongst boys' far too often to describe absolute dominance in sports, well, that doesn't even begin to touch on the overwhelming obliteration of his opposition early on. Figaro was King Kong.

No one could hit this guy the first month of the season. He ran through his opponents to the tune of a 0.96 ERA, struck out 17 batters against just five walks, and posted a 0.68 WHIP along with a .131 BA against.

Then May came and suddenly Figaro wasn't the same dominating presence that he once was. The biggest concern is that no one could explain why. Tom Brookens thought that he was having trouble commanding his fastball. Pitching coach Ray Burris thought that maybe he wasn't establishing it early enough. Figaro thought that he was fine, that his command was still there, but guys were just hitting him now.

His walks increased and his strikeouts decreased, his WHIP climbed to 1.35, his batting average against more than doubled, finally settling at .284. It was getting so bad that there were growing whispers floating around Jerry Uht Park that Figaro was going to be sent down to Lakeland.

Then June came and suddenly he is back, and quite possibly better than ever. His first start of the month was rocky, but over the last week he has re-established himself as one of the few prospects on the shortlist for Detroit.

Over his last 14.1 innings he has given up just four runs, struck out 18 and walked two. Earning himself the Eastern League Pitcher of the month week award for his performance. Figaro was so dominate against New Hampshire in his last start that it inspired Brookens to state that it was his best performance of the year.

"I know he had that no-hitter earlier in the season, but this is the best we've seen him pitch all season. His fastball was there, I thought he struggled with his slider early on, but he got better as the game went on," Brookens said. It couldn't have come at a better time either. Figaro retired the first 11-batters he faced before relinquishing a single off the left field wall with two outs in the fourth, but the batter, Brad Emaus, was retired when he tried to stretch a single into a double.

He then proceeded to sit down the Fisher Cats in order in both the fifth and sixth innings. The only runs he allowed came in the seventh when he allowed Brian Jeroloman to squeak a ball over the right field fence.

He did all this with Tigers' GM Dave Dombroski watching him from behind home plate.

"I felt like I had to impress him. You know he's back there. So I was like, ‘Oooohhh, that's the president, I have to do something good'," Figaro said laughing after the game. "To have him here, I had to be focused so they see me and see what's going on and maybe they get me there soon." If he keeps pitching like he is, it might be sooner than any of us think.

Sticking with the theme of redemption and new beginnings, Cale Iorg is starting to look like he's turning it around.

Iorg has long been a highly touted prospect in the organization, and it's easy to see why when he's on the defensive side of the ball, but offensively he's looked more like the second coming of Mario Mendoza than a future All-Star shortstop.

"It's funny because coming out of spring training I had more questions about his ability to play defense than I did his bat," Brookens laughed after Saturday's game.

Entering the series against New Hampshire he was hitting a paltry .213/.252/.351 with just five homers and 15 RBI.

Things began with Iorg going hitless in the opener of the series, as per usual. But something happened between Friday night and Saturday, because when Iorg stepped to the plate he was a different man.

Iorg, who only has only drawn 10 walks against 59 strike outs this season, was suddenly working counts and waiting for his pitch. It was so out of character that one scout, who was on his second trip to Erie this season, joked before Sunday's game about his new found patience.

"Who was that out there at short? Because that wasn't Cale Iorg," he said.

After striking out in his first appearance on Saturday, Iorg launched a home run onto the Erie Civic Center behind the left field wall. Then, in the sixth he knocked an RBI single up the middle.

"I've been frustrated a little bit because you work hard and when you don't see any dividends from it, so it obviously feels good. If I can just build on tonight in the future I'll be all right.

"When you get in a slump you try to swing your way out. You go up there thinking I have to get a hit every time you go up and every night to make your batting average go up, but you have to get a good at-bat before you can get a hit," Iorg said.

On Sunday it was more of the same for Iorg, as he added another RBI single to go along with a stolen base and a run scored.

Quick Hits

- Tuesday marked the speedy return of Casper Wells who returned from hamate surgery just a little more than seven weeks after hitting the disabled list. In his first five games back he has hit .261 with three homers and five RBI.

-Ryan Strieby returned on Thursday after missing five games with soreness in his surgically repaired hamate. He went 3-for-13 this week -Jonah Nickerson had another solid start, throwing 6 2/3 of scoreless baseball against Portland on Wednesday. He now has a 1.32 ERA for the month of June.

-Scott Sizemore was called up to Toledo following Sunday's game. Sizemore hit .307/.402/.535 with Erie this season. Danny Worth (.212/.265/.252) was sent down to take his place.

-Jon Kibler, TigsTown's pitcher of the month for May, had a pretty solid outing his lat time out, giving up two runs over six innings of work. One scout wasn't convinced, though. "He looks like he's having trouble repeating his delivery. He isn't the same pitcher that impressed me last year when he was with (West) Michigan. He gives up too many hits. That's going to catch up with him," he explained. Kibler gave up seven hits, struck out two and walked one in the outing. Erie will be on the road all week, first in Portland, and then they will head to New Hampshire.


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