West Mich. MLN: Working Hard and Having Fun

West Michigan Whitecaps manager Joe DePastino has always had the same mentality to help win games: work hard, and have fun in the process. Work on player development instead of demanding instant gratification.

Sure, this isn't the flashiest frame of mind, and, as has been the case early this season for the 'Caps, it doesn't always show the best immediate results. But, morale has continued to stay high, and as a result, the team is starting to regain life after a slow start.

One player who is not only making himself into the team's ace starter, but also one of the stars of the Midwest League, is RHP Ramon Lebron (4-1, 2.70). Lebron, who is currently third in the Midwest League in wins, produced two quality starts in the past week, giving up just two runs and holding South Bend to a shut out.

That being said, the team isn't where they need to be just yet. After a mediocre 3-4 week, capped off by a 6-5 loss to a Lansing last night that saw multiple lead changes and relatively poor pitching performances from both teams, the Whitecaps are at 11-21 on the season and last place in the Eastern Division.

The way the 'Caps finished the week is probably more disheartening because of the way they started it. After taking two of three from a Great Lakes team that has been near the top of the league all season, the Whitecaps failed to carry the momentum to Comstock Park, losing two of three to lowly Bowling Green.

In the midst of all of this, however, we have seen a rise in the stock of a few players. As previously mentioned, Lebron has been lights out in his past couple of starts. As has been the case all season, CF Jamie Johnson continues to be consistent at the plate, batting .310 on the season with eight RBI.

After a relatively slow start, 1B Jordan Lennerton is showing his potential, leading the team in RBI and home runs, with 12 and three, respectively. He's also raised his average to .289, making him, along with Johnson, one of the more reliable hitters for the 'Caps so far this season.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, as he wasn't really considered a threat at the plate by most early in the season, is RF Alexis Espinoza. In 20 games this season, Espinoza is batting .321 with two home runs and nine RBI.

RHP Jacob Turner (0-0, 3.78) hasn't quite yet to live up to the early season hype, and has been fairly run-of-the-mill in four conservative starts this season. However, players like Lebron and RHP Trevor Feeney (3-3, 4.02) have picked up the slack left by Turner and other starters on the staff.

The Whitecaps have two more road games against the Lugnuts before returning to Comstock Park for a seven game home stand that includes a four game series against a 16-16 South Bend team that is gaining momentum, followed by a three game series against Lake County, who currently sits at 22-10 and leads the Midwest League in wins.

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