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Indians Indians Archive Minor Happenings: Whitney Revived In Lake County
Written by Tony Lastoria

Tony Lastoria
Simply put, it's the most comprehensive Indians minor league coverage you will find anywhere.  It's Minor Happenings, and it's a Thursday night regular piece here at The Cleveland Fan.  In this week's column, Tony hits on the hot bats of infielders Matt Whitney, Jared Goedert, and Ryan Mulhern. He reports on the awakening of mega-prospect Trevor Crowe.  And brings us up to speed on the latest national praise heaped on the promising Adam Miller.

"Minor Happenings" covers the important developments and news in the Indians farm system. Information in this report is collected from the various news outlets that cover each team, some national news, and in some cases from private sources connected to the Indians organization. Minor League Player of the Week
(for games from May 10 through May 16)

Matt Whitney (First baseman - Lake County)
.458 AVG (11-24), 6 R, 5 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB

Pitching in Buffalo and Akron have dominated the Player of the Week awards of late, but this week we saw several good offensive performances from players up and down the Indians player development system.  The most notable performance, though, came from first baseman Matt Whitney.

Whitney is now hitting .343 with a .998 OPS on the season, and has 8 HR and 30 RBI in 34 games for
Lake County.  Prior to the start of the season, it was expected that Whitney would only be in Lake County for a short time to get acclimated to the position change from third base to first base, and then move up to Kinston quickly.  He likely will be the first player in the hot hitting Lake County lineup to move up, and could be on the move very soon.

Honorable Mention:

Ryan Mulhern (1B - Buffalo): .440 AVG (11-25), 3 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB
Chuck Lofgren (LHP - Akron): 0-0, 1 start, 1.29 ERA, 7 IP, 0 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Max Ramirez (C - Kinston): .389 AVG (7-18), 3 2B, 6 RBI, 9 BBs
John Drennen (OF - Kinston): .286 AVG (8-28), 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 2 BB
Frank Herrmann (RHP - Kinston): 1-0, 1 start, 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K

Previous Winners:

5/3 to 5/9:  Chuck Lofgren (LHP - Akron)
4/26 to 5/2:  Adam Miller (RHP - Buffalo)
4/19 to 4/25:  Shawn Nottingham (LHP - Akron)
4/12 to 4/18:  Jason Stanford (LHP - Buffalo)
4/5 to 4/11:  Matt McBride (C - Lake County)

Director's Cuts

Indians Farm Director Ross Atkins was in Kinston this week, and offered his thoughts on the town and some players in the system:

On Kinston:  A very small town with maybe one to two stop lights, which is much different than the atmosphere and activity centered around Lake County and Akron.  From a development standpoint, it is a perfect place for players as the small town offers very few distractions and the playing field is excellent.  Also, the
front office works well with the Indians.

On David Huff:  He looks great, and is progressing well with each outing.  Atkins feels that Huff is one of the guys in the system where you can dream a little bit because he is that good.  Huff has unbelievable confidence in his fastball, and probably the best fastball command in the entire system.  He is a very polished pitcher, is very aggressive, and repeats his delivery well.

On Ryan Mulhern:  Atkins is very, very pleased with his performance to date at Buffalo, and in fact said he is somewhat surprised with how well he has played to start the season considering this is his first taste of Triple-A.  Mulhern had a similar start two years ago at Single-A Kinston, and appears to be well on his way to another big year like he had in 2005.  He has not yet exceeded his potential, but has come close to maximizing it.

Another Kouzmanoff In The Making?

Lake County third baseman Jared Goedert continues to put up gaudy numbers, and is starting to emerge as a legit hitting prospect.  Goedert is hitting .372 with 14 HR and 35 RBI on the year, has piled up 32 walks to only 19 strikeouts in 35 games, and owns a .503 on-base percentage, .785 slugging percentage, and a 1.288 OPS.  Goedert ranks 1st in just about every important offensive category in the South Atlantic League, ranking 1st in runs, home runs, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.  He also ranks 2 nd in RBIs and 3rd in batting average.  To date, he has also has reached base in 29 straight games by hit or walk.

Goedert's performance to date immediately brings to mind the breakout season former
Lake County
third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff had in 2004 when he hit .330 with 16 HR and 87 RBI.  Like Goedert, prior to his breakout season in 2004 Kouzmanoff was not a highly touted prospect around baseball or followed by the fans.  Goedert also is very similar to Kouzmanoff defensively where he is not flashy but makes all the routine plays and has an above average arm.

The Indians consider Goedert to have the upside to be an average third baseman at the major league level, but if he continues his torrid hitting pace the outlook for his upside as a player may need to be adjusted.  Goedert is not a big assuming player nor overly strong, but he has great raw power and the ability to hit the ball out to any part of the ballpark.  His consistent swing and line drive stroke help generate most of his power.

Mulhern Cleaning Up From The Bottom

Buffalo first-basemen Ryan Mulhern is currently hitting .331 with 8 HR and 28 RBI to go along with a .374 on-base percentage and .636 slugging percentage.  He is leading the team in just about every noteworthy offensive category, and is ranked 7th in the league in hitting, 3rd in 2B, 3rd in HR, 1st in RBI, 2nd in SLG, and 3rd in OPS.  Those are some impressive numbers for any middle of the order hitter, but that is not the case for Mulhern as he has done this all from the 8th and 9th spot in the Buffalo batting order.

With this being Mulhern's first taste of Triple-A, the Indians want to start him off in the 8th and 9th spot in the order and ease him into a more significant spot in the batting order as the season progresses.  By hitting Mulhern near the bottom of the batting order it allows him more time to study starting pitchers and prepare to face that pitcher.  Mulhern can see how the opposing pitcher attacks the hitters in the middle-of-the-order and what the pitcher does to them in certain counts and situations.  The Indians decided to go with this approach way back in spring training with Mulhern and outfielder Brad Snyder, and by doing this they felt it reduced the risk of them getting in over their heads.

Another Undrafted Success Story?

It is starting to look like the Indians may have hit gold again on an undrafted free agent.  Akron outfielder Brian Barton went undrafted in the 2004 Draft as most teams thought he was more interested in a career in aerospace engineering, which is the degree he earned at Miami University.  Of course, a year and a half later, Barton is now starring at Akron and one of the Indians top five prospects.

Now, enter right-handed pitcher Frank Herrmann.  Herrman, an economics major at Harvard, also went undrafted and is starting to make some noise in
Kinston with his pitching.  In his most recent start on Monday, Herrmann allowed only one run on four hits in eight innings and did not walk a batter and struckout five.

To date, in seven starts Herrmann is 3-0 with a 2.72 ERA and has allowed 36 hits and 3 walks while striking out 25 in 39.2 innings pitches.  Herrmann features a low-90s fastball with a hard curveball and changeup that has good movement.  The key to Herrmann's success is his bulldog mentality and his intelligence in coming up with a good gameplan to attack hitters.  He also is focused on pitching to contact and throwing strikes, saying "If they're going to beat me, they've got to string together two or three hits in an inning to score a run."

Smith Proving Indians Wrong

Buffalo right-hander Sean Smith continues to impress at Buffalo, and is making Indians Farm Director Ross Atkins and his staff look bad after they decided to start him in the bullpen this year after a very good season in the starting rotation at Akron last year when he went 11-7 with a 3.83 ERA.   On the year, he is 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA and has allowed 25 hits and 15 walks while striking out 25 in 30.1 innings of work.

Last Thursday, Smith threw five shutout innings before struggling to get the third out in the sixth innings and allowing two runs, which snapped a 22.2 consecutive scoreless inning streak.  He came back and started a new scoreless innings streak with his start on Tuesday night by throwing six innings of shutout ball.  He ended up winning the game on Tuesday, which was his third straight decision.  His ERA leads the team and ranks second in the International League.

Miller Named To Dream Rotation

As if there needs to be anymore build up for the eventual
Cleveland debut of Buffalo fireballer Adam Miller.  Sports Illustrated magazine named Miller to their "Dream Rotation" which is an up-and-coming dream five-man rotation compiled by 11 high-ranking major-league executives.  Prospects with one season or less of major league service time were eligible for the list, and Miller was 4th in the rotation which also included Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka, Philadelphia's Cole Hamels, New York Yankees' Phillip Hughes, and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum.  Of note, Miller is the only one in that dream rotation who has yet to appear in the majors.  On the season, Miller is 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA at Buffalo and has allowed 37 hits and 14 walks while striking out 39 in 44.9 innings pitched.

Call Him Mr. No-No

Akron left-hander Chuck Lofgren provided the Mother's Day crowd with quite a treat this past Sunday, as he threw seven no-hit innings before leaving because of a high pitch count.  For all his work, though, he finished with a no decision. Lofgren only faced 22 batters in his seven innings of work, which is only one over the minimum.  That one player proved to be costly, as that player reached on a leadoff walk in the fourth inning and moved around the bases on a balk, sacrifice bunt, and scored on a sacrifice fly.

Lofgren left after seven innings with the score tied 1-1, and finished the game with the following line: 7 IP, 1ER, 0 H, 1 BB, and 6 Ks.  This is the second straight start Lofgren has took a no-hitter into the 6th innings, as on his May 8th start he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before giving up a hit with one out.  This just in, this kid is pretty good.  On the year, in seven starts Lofgren is now 3-2 with a 2.88 ERA and has allowed 28 hits and 15 walks while striking out 42 in 40.2 innings pitched.

Ramirez Rakes in Kinston

Kinston catcher Max Ramirez is putting together a good season that has pretty much gone under the radar.  To date, Ramirez has put up very good numbers in Kinston, hitting .306 with 5 HR, 22 RBI, and a .959 OPS in the pitching dominated Carolina League.  Even more impressive is his high walk-rate and very good on-base percentage, as he has walked 29 times and struck out 26 times in 32 games and has a .450 on-base percentage.  Ramirez also ranks 7th in batting average, 9th in home runs, 6th in RBI, 1st in walks, and is 2nd in OPS in the Carolina League.

Ramirez has been Mr. Clutch at
, hitting .481 with runners in scoring position (RISP).  In fact, Ramirez has shown a much better ability to hit with runners on base (.442) than runners not on base (.215).  His patience at the plate and ability to identify pitches are what make him such a dangerous clutch hitter.  He is not fooled easily, and doesn't chase bad pitches that put him into bad counts and as a result pitchers end up having to come right after him.

Lara Ineffective

Buffalo left-handed reliever Juan Lara has had a rough go of it early in the season.  Lara had a good start to the season where in his first five appearances he had the following line: 1.42 ERA, 6.1 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K.  Since then, however, in his next 11 appearances he has the following line:  11.17 ERA, 9.2 IP, 13 H, 12 ER, 9 BB, 7 K.  On the year, opponents are hitting .309 off of Lara, lefties are hitting .346 off of him, and he has a 2.06 WHIP.  Not a good way to start the season, especially for what many perceive as the #1 left-handed relief pitching option the Indians will turn to if a need arises.

Laffey Stays Consistent

Akron left-hander Aaron Laffey continues to perform well in the starting rotation.  Last Thursday, Laffey had another solid start going seven innings and allowed only two runs on seven hits and no walks while striking out seven.  Unfortunately, a big error late in the game opened the flood gates for three unearned runs, and it ended up costing him a win and giving him his first loss on the season.

On the year, in six starts Laffey is 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA and has allowed 29 hits and 7 walks while striking out 24 in 35.0 innings pitched.  Laffey had been scheduled to start for
Akron on Wednesday night, but was skipped since he was called up to Buffalo to make a spot start today.

Lewis Adjusting Well To Bullpen Role

Akron right-handed reliever Jensen Lewis is adapting to life in the bullpen.  Prior to this season, Lewis had been a starting pitcher and went 8-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 28 starts last year.  Jensen was picked in the 3rd round of the 2005 Draft out of Vanderbilt University, and to date at Akron he is 1-0 with a 2.74 ERA and has allowed 21 hits and 9 walks while striking out 29 in 23 innings pitched.

While he threw in the 90-92 MPH range as a starter, many scouts felt he could add more velocity as he matured or was shifted to the bullpen.  Lewis also had experience in the bullpen in his days at Vanderbilt, and the Indians liked his athleticism.  To date, that logic has come to fruition as his MPH are up a few ticks on the fastball, and his 11.35 strikeout per nine innings rate is impressive.  In his last ten games, he is 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA.

Finally Something To Crowe About

After a season long slump, could
Akron outfielder Trevor Crowe finally be on his way to breaking out of it?  It remains to be seen, but with every hot streak there is always a start and a turning point, and maybe his game winning walkoff hit on Saturday was the kickstart he needed.

Before coming through with the game-winning hit in extra innings on Saturday, Crowe had been in 0-for-12 in the series and 0-for-5 in the game.  After being given a day off on Sunday and Monday, he roared back on Tuesday night by getting three hits, including his first home run of the season.  To date, Crowe is hitting .180 with 1 HR and 14 RBI, and has a .274 on-base percentage and .259 slugging percentage.  Crowe's biggest problem has been staving off thoughts of the big leagues, as he has put enormous pressure on himself to perform this year.

Denham Providing Spark For Captains

Jason Denham has been a nice surprise in
Lake County
.  After outfielder Lucas Montero went down with a broken thumb a few weeks back, Denham was activated from extended spring training and has impressed in his short time with the club.  To date, in 21 games he is hitting .325 with 2 HR, 10 RBI, and 3 stolen bases.  He also has walked 17 times and only struckout 13 times.

Denham, a 21-year old from
California, plays center field and is hitting at the top of the Lake County lineup as his patience at the plate and speed makes him an ideal leadoff hitter.  Denham has spent the last three seasons in the Indians short-season leagues in Burlington, Mahoning Valley and the GCL and last year hit .302 with 0 HR, 14 RBI, with 6 stolen bases in 53 games at Mahoning Valley.  Denham is also the younger brother of Dan Denham, whom is a former first round draft pick of the Indians who was traded to Oakland
over a week ago.

Transaction Recap

- Left-hander Dan Cevette was activated from extended spring training to make an emergency spot start in
Akron last week because of back-to-back doubleheaders, and then a few days later was sent to Kinston when right-handed reliever Chris Niesel was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.

- On Friday, left-hander Kyle Collins was moved down from
Akron to Kinston and right-handed sum-mariner Randy Newsom was moved up from Kinston to Akron

Akron right-handed reliever Jake Dittler was promoted to Buffalo on Monday, and right-handed reliever T.J. Burton was called up from Kinston to take his spot in the Akron

- When
Kinston middle infielder Brian Finegan went on the disabled listed with a broken thumb last week, middle infielder Niuman Romero was called up from extended spring training to Kinston
to take his place.

Lake County
infielder Andrew Lytle retired last week after two plus seasons in the organization, and was replaced on the roster by outfielder Cristo Arnal who was activated from extended spring training.

- The Indians traded
infielder Jake Gautreau to the New York Mets for a player to be named later. Gautreau, 27, has been on the disabled list all season.

Lake County left-handed reliever Matt Meyer was moved up to Kinston on Tuesday, and as of this writing there is no word on who will be taking his roster spot in the Lake County
pitching staff.

Affiliate Notebook

Buffalo Notes:  Buffalo left-hander Rafael Perez put forth another solid outing on Monday, and went 7.2 innings and only gave up 2 runs on 8 hits while walking 2 and striking out 7.  On the season, in six starts he is 3-1 and has a 3.22 ERA. ... Catcher Mike Rose leads the International League in throw-out percentage among catchers, having thrown out 63% percent of attempted base-stealers. ... Left-hander Tony Sipp is still rehabbing his elbow strain, and is expected back in four to six weeks. ... Right-hander Cliff Politte is rehabbing in Cleveland and will throw off the mound soon, and is expected back in four to six weeks. ... Buffalo is one of only two teams who have yet to be shut out this season, with Richmond being the other team. ... Buffalo has shutout their opponent five times this year.

Akron Notes:  With right-hander Bubbie Buzachero being called up to Akron to fill the void left behind when Eddie Mujica was called up to Cleveland, Akron filled the need at the closer's role by naming Reid Santos to the job. ... Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is day-to-day (headache) after a nasty collision in the outfield with Trevor Crowe. ...
Akron suffered their first loss when leading after seven innings last Thursday. Prior to the game on Thursday, Akron
was 17-0, but blew a 4-1 lead in the 8th inning by giving up 4 runs and losing 5-4.

Kinston Notes: Sun-Wei Tseng is starting to feature his split-finger fastball for the first time. Early in the year, Tseng threw his bread and butter pitch maybe once or twice an outing, but now is mixing it in 9-12 times an outing. ... Kinston utility player Chris Gimenez hit three home runs and had six RBI in Wednesday's game. ... Kinston outfielder Joe Constanza had been out since May 4th with a strained groin, and returned on May 13th. ... Kinston lost their first series of the season late last week when they dropped three of four to Frederick

Parting Shots

Former Indians farmhand right-handed Francisco Cruceta has been suspended for 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.  The Indians designated him for assignment in August 2005, and he led the Pacific Coast League in strikeouts last year with 185, which was 50 more than 2nd ranked Rich Hill who had 135 strikeouts.

The Indians practice of stuffing a pie into the face of the game hero during post-game TV interviews seems to have carried its way down to the minors.  During a televised on-field interview before last Thursday's game,
Akron left-hander Chuck Lofgren was the unsuspecting recipient of a pie in the face.  Also, in Buffalo, after Ben Francisco hit a game winning grand slam last Wednesday night he earned a shaving cream pie from Jason Stanford during a post-game interview.

In this week's Baseball America Hot Sheet, Chuck Lofgren is #5 and Jared Goedert comes in at #20. ... Former Tribe catcher Tim Laker is set to make his managerial debut when short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley starts play in June.

Feel free to e-mail me at with any suggestions of things you would like added, changed or removed in this report.  Also, if you have a specific prospect you would like me to touch on in future reports, feel free to let me know.

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