TigsTown MLN: Javs Still Cruising in AFL

The Javelinas continue to cruise in the Arizona Fall League and are on pace to claiming a playoff spot very soon. And that is due in no small part thanks to the Tigers on the club, especially Robbie Weinhardt.

The magic number for the Javs to clinch a playoff spot continues to dwindle, and in no small part, some of the credit must go to Tigers right-hander Robbie Weinhardt. Weinhardt's rocky start is a thing of the past, as he has reeled off an amazing stretch of games. In his last six outings, Weinhardt has thrown twelve innings of relief, allowed just six hits and three walks, and struck out 20, without allowing a runner to cross home plate.

"I just feel really confident right now," said Weinhardt when asked about his recent performance. "After my first couple of outings, my confidence was down a bit, but then I got going, and I'm feeling really confident. I've been on a roll since I got my confidence back."

When asked if he'd made any changes to try and get his confidence back, Weinhardt had this to say, "My last few outings I've been more consistent, spotting my fastball, and throwing my off-speed pitches for strikes. I'm getting ahead of guys, and I'm making the pitches I need to make."

Weinhardt's dominating run has left him with a 4.80 ERA in 15 innings, with only eight hits allowed, and a league leading 25 strikeouts. That's an impressive feat for any pitcher, let along a reliever that may not have the innings of other pitchers.

There are some lessons here for Weinhardt, as he prepares for what is likely a trip to big league spring training, "I have been throwing my change-up a lot more lately, really trying to solidify it. I had to do that to be successful out here, and at higher levels."

Whatever he has been doing these last six outings, Weinhardt is on a tear that will surely get him noticed, and don't be surprised if he emerges as a dark horse in spring training.

Also fueling the Javs' push for the playoffs, Casper Wells is still crushing the ball like few others in the AFL. Since last week's update, Wells has seen action in five games, continuing to rip the ball to the tune of a 5-for-11 stretch with two doubles, a triple, six RBI, and a stolen base for good measure.

Wells continued fantastic run has also seen him strikeout only two times in his last three starts, giving hope that he may be figuring out a way to control his whiffs; a key if he is to be a successful big leaguer. Wells' season line stands at .367/.451/.750, as he is second in the league in RBI (24) and he ranks second on the team in average among qualifiers, second in on-base percentage, and first in slugging.

While the old adage says pitching and defense wins championships, Casper Wells is doing his part to make sure offense gets the credit it deserves as part of that equation. Wells left Thursday afternoon's game after being hit on the lower leg with a throw while running out a grounder. Though he was left with a nasty bruise, the injury is not serious.

Also at the plate, Cale Iorg has continued to struggle, though some observers have indicated they've seen better at-bats from the talented shortstop in recent games. For the week, Iorg picked up two singles in ten at-bats, while scoring two runs and stealing two bases.

Back on the pitching mound, after missing the first few games of the season, Thad Weber is settling in and proving he is healthy. When asked about his brief trouble in the AFL, and his injury problems at the end of the year in Erie, Weber replied with "I feel great now. I feel 100% healthy and very strong. My velocity is right where it should be and I haven't had any trouble in between outings as far as recovery."

That is good news for a pitcher that admittedly entered the AFL with some things he wanted to work on. "The first is to continue to locate my fastball, not only in and out, but up and down as well. Changing eye levels is very important and working in the bottom part of the zone is crucial in order to pitch at higher levels."

Much like Weinhardt, Weber continues by mentioning the need to develop his change-up, "It got better and better as the year went on, but I'm working on trusting it as a pitch I can use in a lot of situations. My breaking ball has always been there, but I need to continue to develop that third pitch."

In Weber's last two appearances, he has combined to toss four shutout innings with only two hits allowed, while striking out seven. He has been so strong over his recent outings that his ERA stands at 3.00 over six games, with ten strikeouts and just one walk against.

Wrapping up the AFL coverage, Scot Drucker's last outing wasn't the prettiest of his fall season, as he yielded three runs on five hits in three innings, while walking one and striking out just one. The tough performance saw Drucker's ERA rise to 5.14 for the AFL season.

Left-hander Andrew Oliver is making a strong case to garner consideration for a trip to Double-A to officially start his professional career, as the hard-thrower posted two more scoreless outings this week, lowering his overall ERA to just 3.46 in thirteen innings. Over four innings this week, Oliver walked two and struck out three, while allowing just one hit.


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