Class-A West Michigan left-hander Jon Kibler continues to baffle Minor League hitters during a stellar 2008 campaign.
Kibler, Detroit’s 30th-round pick in the 2007 draft, is now 14-4 with a 1.63 ERA in 22 starts.
Dontrelle Willis had a difficult start this week for Triple-A Toledo. After struggling with the Tigers and Class-A Lakeland earlier this season, Willis is 3-1 in five starts for Toledo with a 4.28 ERA. The veteran left-hander is in the process of tweaking his mechanics.
— Thor Nystrom
Tigers Minor Leaguer Mike Hessman hit a pair of home runs in Team USA’s 17-5 mercy-rule win over Canada at Durham, N.C., in its final stateside warm-up before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Hessman, a third baseman at Triple-A Toledo and last year’s International League MVP, drove in three runs on the night. He clocked a two-run shot in the United States’ nine-run fifth, and then added a solo homer an inning later to help lift the Americans to their third straight exhibition victory.
The 30-year-old Hessman currently leads the International League with 32 home runs. He led the IL in homers (31) and RBIs (101) last season.
USA Today posted an article featuring Hessman on Aug. 1: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/beijing/team/2008-07-31-hessman-feature_N.htm
Toledo now Worth-less
Mud Hens shortstop Danny Worth, considered the best infield defender in the Tigers’ farm system, will likely miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. He felt stiffness in the shoulder last week, and the team medical staff determined he should not participate in the final leg of the schedule.
Worth’s trip to the disabled list marked his second in three weeks. While at Double-A Erie, he went on the DL with problems in the same shoulder.
It’s uncertain how this will affect him next season. If he heals without complications, Worth could compete for the Tigers’ starting shortstop position, assuming the team turns down Edgar Renteria’s option for 2009.
1B prospect breaks Lakeland dinger record
Class A Lakeland first sacker Ryan Strieby set a new single-season franchise record Saturday when he launched his 25th home run of the year. Alejandro Freire held the previous record with 24 in 1997.
The Tigers’ fourth-round pick out of the University of Kentucky in 2006, Strieby earned his first Florida State League All-Star selection this season. He leads the league in home runs, is tied for the league lead with 83 RBIs and ranks third with a .535 slugging percentage. Defensively, he leads the league’s first basemen in fielding percentage at .993.
Baseball America magazine named him the 28th-best prospect in the Tigers’ system following last season.
— Scott McNeish
The Ivan Rodriguez trade didn’t only affect the Tigers’ roster. The shockwaves stretched throughout the organization.
After the likely future Hall of Famer went to the Bronx, the Tigers recalled Dane Sardinha from Triple-A Toledo to assume the big club’s backup spot. Sardinha appeared in Detroit earlier this season when new starting catcher Brandon Inge landed on the disabled list.
Sardinha’s recall ignited a chain reaction. The top catching prospects at each level bumped to the next one.
Dusty Ryan jumped from Double-A Erie to take Sardinha’s roster slot in Toledo; James Skelton, who hit over .300 for advanced Class A Lakeland, went to Erie; Adrian Casonova went from Class A West Michigan to Lakeland; Angel Flores climbed from short-season Class A Oneonta to West Michigan.
— Scott McNeish
Two interesting moves transpired Monday in the Tigers organization. Not transactions that affect the Tigers — yet — but two moves that coincide with their potential need areas.
Shortstop Danny Worth and relief pitcher Casey Fien moved from Double-A Erie to Triple-A Toledo. In Worth, the Mud Hens get a youngster who earned the title of the organization’s best defensive infielder by Baseball America. Fien didn’t receive such accolades, but the right-hander had 12 saves and a 2.96 ERA at Erie.
Both represent players that caught Tigers manager Jim Leyland’s eye during Spring Training.
If the Tigers decline underachieving starting shortstop Edgar Renteria’s club option for next season, Worth could make a case for Detroit’s starting shortstop in 2009.
Earlier in the season, Leyland commented on Worth’s prized defense.
“Now, there’s shortstops, and then there’s shortstops,” Leyland said. “Let me tell you, this [guy] can play shortstop. He might be the best we have in the organization.”
Fien, on the other hand, could see Major League action before next season. It’s no secret the Tigers are looking for bullpen help. Fien presents one in-house option. Success at Toledo could warrant him a jump to Detroit when the rosters expand in September.
On Monday against the Pawtucket Red Sox, Fien earned his first Triple-A win by pitching the 12th inning of a 5-4 decision. He allowed no runs, no hits, one walk and struck out two.
How quickly he adapts to Triple-A — or if another reliever steps up — could help determine what the Tigers do at the Trade Deadline.
Toledo right-handed starter Eddie Bonine was named International League Pitcher of the Week for the period of July 21-27.
Bonine, who made five starts in Detroit before the All-Star break, won two starts last week to improve to 11-2 at Toledo this season. On Monday, he allowed two earned runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings against Rochester. In his next start on Saturday, he held Pawtucket, which boasts the best record in the International League, to one hit in seven innings.
Movin’ on up
Ryan Perry, the Tigers’ 2008 first-round selection in the First-Year Players Draft, was moved to Class A Lakeland on Monday.
The 21st overall pick, Perry comes to Lakeland from the rookie level Gulf Coast League Tigers, where he allowed no runs in two relief innings and struck out four.
The Tigers have stated they will take their time with Perry, a right-handed, hard-throwing reliever out of the University of Arizona. Director of scouting David Chadd has said not to expect a September callup to the Majors.
— Scott McNeish
Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland confirmed Friday afternoon that Dontrelle Willis will make his next start for Class A Lakeland on Saturday against the Sarasota Reds.
Willis has not pitched since July 17.
When asked about Willis’ possible return to the Major Leagues this season, Leyland said, “That’s on the back burner for me. We’ve got a lot of work to do right now. It’s not out of my mind, but I have to let that play its course. Dontrelle will tell us when he’s ready to come back.”
In two Class A outings, the 2003 National League Rookie of the Year and 2005 NL Cy Young runner-up has allowed two runs on five hits in five innings.
Perry makes pro debut
Ryan Perry, the Tigers’ first-round selection in this year’s First-Year Players Draft, saw his first professional action for the rookie league Gulf Coast League Tigers on Thursday. The 21st-overall pick out of the University of Arizona struck out the side in his only inning of work.
Ramirez on DL
Double-A Erie outfielder Wilkin Ramirez, the Tigers’ lone prospect at the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium, went on the seven-day disabled list Monday with a strained quadriceps.
He’s hitting .303 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs in 77 games at Erie this season.
Dontrelle Wills has not pitched at Class A Lakeland since July 17, but fans can watch the first inning of that last start here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gF_9mQVnWoY
Willis pitched three innings in this start, giving up one earned run on four hits and, more importantly, no walks. In his two appearances since the Tigers optioned the left-hander to work on his control issues, Willis has allowed two runs on five hits and three walks in five innings.
The video doesn’t show any dramatic changes to his mechanics. The Tigers and Willis have kept virtually silent on what he and organizational pitching coordinator John Matlack have worked on.
“I’m just trying to get back to basics and doing that right,” Willis said in mid-July, “and not taking that for granted and just trying to rebuild it from there.”
However, Lakeland pitching coach Joe Coleman spilled some information to The Lakeland Ledger after Willis’ last outing.
“[We] have been working with Dontrelle to get him to throw the ball to zones rather than trying to hit spots,” he told the newspaper.
It’s uncertain when Willis will make another appearance.
Brandon Douglas has excelled as an injury replacement at Class A West Michigan.
The Tigers’ 11th-round selection in the 2008 First-Year Players Draft, Douglas earned Midwest League Player of the Week honors on Monday. The 22-year-old shortstop is hitting .600 with a home run and seven RBIs in six games since moving up from short-season Class A Oneonta to fill in for injured Audy Ciriaco.
Douglas, a Second Team All-American at the University of Northern Iowa, has quickly climbed the ranks of the Tigers’ farm system since beginning his professional career June 19.
He started at rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .333 with five RBIs in seven games. Then he jumped to Oneonta for 15 games, during which he posted a .327 average. His current club marks his third in six weeks.
“Brandon’s quick movement has been due to need,” Tigers director of player development Glenn Ezell said in an email. “That means he was a guy we felt could handle the action until our injuries healed.”
Another bound up the organizational ladder seems unlikely at this point. The Tigers have two solid shortstops in advanced Class A Lakeland’s Cale Iorg — named the Tigers’ second-best prospect by Baseball America — and Double-A Erie’s Danny Worth, whom Baseball America ranked the eighth-best prospect in the system.