By Andrew Johnson

COMSTOCK PARK – As the new upper Class A team in the Detroit Tigers’ farm system, the West Michigan Whitecaps have more players this season with a legitimate shot at someday making the Major Leagues.

But the Whitecaps’ pitchers will have to start being a lot less generous if they want to move up in the Tigers’ system.

West Michigan shortstop Corey Joyce gets ready for a throw back to second base. Photo/Jason Goorman

West Michigan hurlers surrendered eight walks and hit three batters in a 9-1 loss to the Great Lakes Loons on Tuesday in the Whitecaps’ home opener at Lake Michigan Credit Union Ballpark in Comstock Park.

It was the Whitecap’s first home game since the 2019 season,  because last season was completely wiped out by the emerging COVID virus.         `

“It’s very early,” said Whitecaps manager Bryan Pena about the pitching performance. “We have to continue to work and make some adjustments. It was a very short spring training. 

“Those guys haven’t faced hitters in a long time. We have to continue to be deceitful, and I believe in their talent and what they can do.”

The damage started quickly on Tuesday when Loons’ leadoff hitter Leonel Valera reached on a single and advanced to second when Andy Pages was hit by a pitch. Valera scored the opening run later in the inning on an RBI single from Ryan Ward.

Reynaldo Rivera takes a cut at a pitch for West Michigan. Photo/Jason Goorman

The Whitecaps trailed 1-0 until the Loons broke the game open in the third inning by scoring five runs. They did it with four hits, including a three-run homer by Zac Ching, along with three walks.

The Loons added one insurance run on a wild pitch in the sixth inning before scoring twice more in the ninth.

The lone Whitecaps run came on a RBI sacrifice fly out from Eliezer Alfonzo, which scored Dillon Dingler.

West Michigan was limited to two total hits on the night, with Parker Meadows and Reynaldo Rivera each getting one. Like their parent team in Detroit, the Whitecaps showed a penchant for strikeouts, whiffing at the plate 10 times.

Starting pitcher Keider Montero took the loss, allowing four earned runs on five hits while striking out three over two innings. 

One bright spot was that the Whitecap pitchers struck out 15 Loons batters, with Montero, Zac Shepherd and Jared Tobey all recording three apiece.

The Whitecaps are now 2-4 overall on the season,  and will host Great Lakes on Wednesday night with the first pitch scheduled for 6:35 p.m.

“I think it’s all about the process,” said Pena about getting over the loss and coming out ready tomorrow. “It’s about understanding it’s been a while since they played professional baseball. We need to continue working hard and making adjustments while enjoying the ride. It’s very important to understand that it’s going to take a little time.”