June 29, 2014 at 10:27 pm

Tigers minor-league report: Michael Gerber racks up 8 RBIs in monster game with Single A Connecticut

Michael Gerber, here with Creighton, belted two home runs, a triple and a double in a game for short-season Single A Connecticut Saturday. (John Minchillo / Associated Press)

Among the thousands of young men who play minor-league baseball, it was up to Michael Gerber, a 15th-round Tigers draft pick from Creighton, to become Saturday’s national hitting story.

Gerber, a left-handed hitting outfielder for Single A Connecticut, had eight RBIs on two home runs, a triple, and a double, in the Tigers’ 10-2 mangling of Tri-City at Dodd Stadium.

His only out was made on a 400-foot, line-out to right-center. In nine games he has played since signing with Detroit, Gerber three times has missed by one hit of slugging for the cycle.

“I saw Alexis Gomez (former Tigers outfielder) hit four homers one night at Toledo (2006), but what Gerber did last night was legendary,” said Mike Rabelo, the former Tigers catcher who now is managing Connecticut, a short-season minor-league stop tailored for recently signed players.

“What you have to remember is Dodd Stadium is a huge, huge field,” Rabelo said. “I like to say it’s a force field, because when the sun goes down, the ball doesn’t carry. I even checked with our rovers (roving instructors and scouts). If we were at any other field, and probably even at Comerica (Park), this kid has five homers in one game.

“Two doubles were off the top of the fence in right field, and the other was the line-out to right-center. Keep in mind: The ball doesn’t carry here, for anybody.

“But what he’s doing right now with his bat is phenomenal.”

Gerber entered Sunday on a 19-for-37 siege, good for a .514 batting average and a staggering 1.707 OPS. He was 1-for-4 Sunday and “dropped” to .488 and 1.617.

“It’s a sample size, but not that small of a sample size,” said Rabelo, who so far has seen nothing to match a Baseball America scouting report that praised Gerber’s strength but believed he needed more strike-zone discipline.

“If anything, I thought he was little passive early on. A couple of times he came up with runners in scoring position, and he’d take a strike or a first-pitch fastball. And that’s when I would stress to him that ‘you’ve got to really put the foot on the gas in those situations, especially with runners in scoring position’.

“You’ve got to be ready to hammer that fastball that’s coming.”

Gerber is listed by Baseball America at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, but by the Tigers at 6-1, 175, and plays center field at Connecticut. He is likely headed for a corner outfield post if he continues his push to Detroit.

Judging from early appearances, he’ll at least get a long, serious look.

Elsewhere in the Tigers farm system:

Triple A Toledo

Who’s hot …

Tyler Collins, RF: Collins could push himself into the Tigers’ consciousness as they mull outfield plans for 2015 — if he hits more in line with his past 10 games: .349 on-base percentage, .849 OPS and three home runs.

And who’s not …

Wade Gaynor, 3B: A frustrating minor-league career for Gaynor, and for the Tigers, as their third-round pick in 2009 continues to stumble: .182 in his last 10 games, .208 in 36 games since being transferred to Toledo. Gaynor, 26, is 6-3, 225.

Double A Erie

Who’s hot …

Dixon Machado, SS:Might finally be happening at the plate for a once-gleaming Tigers prospect who is only 22. Machado is batting .400 in his last 10 games, and .338 in June. A right-handed batter with prized defensive skills, he is 6-1, 170, and was signed in 2008 (Aragua, Venezuela).

And who’s not …

Aaron Westlake, 1B: A miserable year for Westlake, who has a hitch in his swing resistant to his — and his coaches’ — fixes. The Tigers’ third-round pick in 2011 (Vanderbilt) is batting .228, with a .272 on-base percentage and .649 OPS.

Single A Lakeland

Who’s hot …

Edgar De La Rosa, RH starter: Made it back from an early setback (finger blister) and, in his last three starts, has been more along the lines of a hard-thrower’s previous status: 21 innings, two runs, eight hits, 18 strikeouts, six walks. De La Rosa is 6-6, 240, is 23 years old, and was signed out of his native Dominican Republic in 2009.

And who’s not …

Logan Ehlers, LH reliever: He’s 3-0 on the season, but in his last 10 games Ehlers has a 5.16 ERA. On the season (14 games), batters are dining on him to the tune of a .301 batting average. Ehlers, 22, was a 20th-round pick in 2012 from Howard Community College in Texas.

Single A West Michigan

Who’s hot …

Grayson Greiner, C:Drafted earlier this month (third round, University of South Carolina), Greiner has started neatly for the Whitecaps: .350 in seven games, with one home run and a .931 OPS. Greiner is a catching Goliath: 6-6, 215, and bats right-handed.

And who’s not …

Raph Rhymes, OF: An unpleasant few weeks (.146 in his last 10 games) for Rhymes, who was a 15th-round pick (Louisiana State). He is 6-foot, 190, and bats righthanded.

Single A Connecticut

Who’s hot ...

Joe Jimenez, RH reliever:Had a couple of back-to-back clunkers in mid-June, but otherwise has been the brand of pitcher the Tigers welcomed in 2014: In four of his last six games, spanning 413 innings, Jimenez, 19, has allowed no earned runs and one hit. He has struck out nine and walked one. He is 6-3, 220, and was signed in 2013 out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

And who’s not …

Steven Fuentes, 3B:The Tigers are hardly concerned that Fuentes, 19, is batting .176 in nine games. He was just freed from the extended minor-league camp in Lakeland, Fla., and is adjusting to a high level for a teenager. Fuentes is a switch-hitter who stands 5-11, and weighs 180, and was another of the Tigers’ recruits from Venezuela, signed in 2011.

Gulf Coast Rookie League

Who’s hot …

Derek Hill, CF: The Tigers’ first-round pick, only a few weeks removed from Elk Grove (California) High, has started pleasingly: .310 in eight games, with two triples, a .474 on-base average, and a .956 OPS. Hill is 6-2, 195, and bats right-handed.

And who’s not …

Brenny Paulino, RH reliever: 9.00 ERA after two appearances, which happens when opposing batters are knocking you around at a .462 clip. Paulino, 21, is 6-4, 170, and once upon a time, before injuries and ineffectiveness set in, was one of the farm system’s better pitching prospects.

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