West Mich MLN: Dipping Down, But There's Hope

As the month of July ends its first full week, and the second half is in full stretch, the ‘Caps find themselves a victim of a familiar spot. Second place.

It was another 4-3 week for West Michigan as first place Fort Wayne sees the ‘Caps as a speck in their rearview mirror. It's easy to say that the promotion of the Whitecaps' top pitchers is heavily due to this. The lack of southpaws in the rotation and the bullpen could mean a lot coming down the stretch. West Michigan currently has only three lefties available on the roster; not a whole lot of options for Joe Depastino, who tries mixing his pitching staff daily to find that perfect combo.

Looking back, a week before all-star break, the ‘Caps were making a run for first place, and we're literally neck-and-neck with Fort Wayne. However, once promotions were handed, the once neck-and-neck turned into, well, what we have now. But fans shouldn't hang their heads. The Whitecaps are still good enough to make a playoff run this year, and as we seen in years past, first place teams don't mean squat in post-season play.

To help the ‘Caps, the Tigers promoted second baseman, Alden Carrithers from Oneonta July 3rd. Carrithers was a 15th round selection by Detroit in last year's draft. In the five games he has played for Oneonta he has batted a whopping .182. Last season was much better for the second year veteran, who batted .316 with 17 RBI in just 39 games for the GCL Tigers last year.

As for pitching, other than Anthony Shawler, Luke Putkonen has started to show much promise for his team. In each of his outings he has managed to last about four innings and beyond. He is developing in a way that could wind up seeing him being Casey Crosby's one-two punch; a void left by Mauricio Robles. July 6, the 6-foot-6 right-hander was granted Pitcher of the Week, along with his teammate, third baseman Bryan Pounds, who was granted the MWL Player of the Week award. Pounds has a team leading 48 RBI, including a 3-for-5, six RBI game against Dayton the night before (July 5), which shot his way to the honor. Putkonen, on the other hand, is starting to show what he can do. To compare him to the ghosts that have gone before, this right-hander is a poor-man's Jonathan Kibler from 2008. Don't let his 5-4 record this season fool you, he has an arm to fear.

With the promotion of other ‘Caps, it's hard to believe a pitcher like Casey Crosby (7-2) hasn't been granted that same gift yet. The 6-foot-5 southpaw out of Illinois has been consistent in every start. He's lights out when he plays at home in Fifth Third Ballpark-- his 6-1 record proves that. He has a steady 3.25 ERA in the 69 innings he has pitched, and you would almost have to watch him play to realize just what he means to this team. The 2007 draftee absolutely carries his fellow Whitecaps on his back when he pitches. So far, the kid is 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA in post all-star break.

So here is West Michigan again—fighting for a definite playoff spot. They have the big bats to carry the load. But the only question is, do they have the arms to push their way to victory for the rest of they season? If you ask DePastino and pitching coach Mark Johnson, they feel they have the guns to shoot them into post-season play.

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