Lakeland MLN: Flightless LFT Back to Reality

The Lakeland Flying Tigers have fallen to the bottom of the standing after losing five of their six games this week. The woeful week has brought the Flying Tigers back to Earth and back to the basement in the Florida State League standings.

The Flying Tigers felt the staunch difference between the bottom feeders in the Southern division and the division leaders. After being swept in a two by two home/away stand against the Tampa Yankees it was evident that Lakeland had miles to go before they were to get in contention.

To make matters worse, after a four game set against the division leading Yankees they had to travel south to challenge the Brevard County Manatees. Brevard County is a combined 26 games over .500 from the start of the season. They were able to squeak a victory in the first game but painfully fell the next game in a grand slam walk off.

If the Flying Tigers are going to salvage the season they are going to have to find someone to fill out the back end of the rotation. With Mauricio Robles departure and Matt Hoffman's arm injury they are two pitchers short. Even with L.J. Gagnier, Andrew Hess and the reigning Florida State League pitcher of the week Charlie Furbush they have a slim chance at regaining respectability if they can't find someone who can throw at least five innings.

Asking for five innings has been a tall order for the pitching staff. Asking for five quality innings seemed all but impossible this week. The pitching staff allowed the opposition for the week to bat .321. The only quality start for the team was in Gagnier's losing effort against Tampa. Even in Furbush's two starts this week he wasn't able to eclipse five innings in either of his starts. The new comers in the rotation had to make do. Ryan Ketchner has been moved to the starting rotation but his start against Tampa was the first where he was able to deliver five innings. The start didn't go particularly well, five innings eight hits five runs three earned, but he was able to save the bullpen from throwing more than four innings.

If it weren't for the fielding lapse by Audy Ciriaco and Maiko Layola, Ketchner could have been in lined for his first win of the season. Ketchner needs more performances like these in order to save the middle relief.

The other new face in the rotation hasn't fared any better. Mark Sorenson pitched as well as you could hope for in Michigan, with an 8-2 record with a 2.44 ERA in his 14 starts. It hasn't gone so well in his trip down south.

In his two starts in the Florida State League he hasn't been successful. Opponents have teed off on him with a .515 batting average against. He's allowed 17 hits and three walks in five and 2/3 innings which is why he has posted a staggering 14.29 ERA. He will have to turn it around, and soon, if the sinking in the standings is going to stop.

The pitcher who had the worst week was Nolan Cain. Any pitcher that allows a walk off home run has a bad week, but a walk off grand slam just adds salt in the wound. After loading the bases in the bottom of the tenth in Brevard County Steffan Wilson pulled Cains pitch over the wall in left to end the game.

Prior to his relief appearance in Brevard County Cain has pitched quite well in relief. In his first nine and 1/3 innings pitched Cain had an ERA of 2.89 with five strikeouts and two walks. He was even pitching well in his first two innings against the Manatees by pitching two perfect innings before entering the tenth. However that's the story of a reliever, his one bad outing has skewed his numbers for now and he will have to get back on track in order to salvage his ERA and the season.

The straw that broke the camels back might have been the injury to Chris Carlson. Now that his bat was starting to flourish he ended up breaking his forearm. "Oh yeah, it's serious he's done [for the season]" said one club official about Carlson's injury. Carlson had surgery on Friday to insert a plate into his forearm which he broke during a collision in Tampa. While his season is finished this year he should be recovered and rehabbed before the start next season.

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