Erie's Gerber feeling over the weather

No. 7 Detroit prospect goes yard on career-high four-hit night

Tigers prospect Mike Gerber has two home runs this season after hitting a career-high 18 in 2016 across two levels. (Mark Olson/

By Andrew Battifarano / | April 17, 2017 11:26 PM ET

It's been nearly two seasons since Mike Gerber has played any cold-weather baseball, so when he started this year 1-for 10, he wasn't sounding any alarms.

While temperatures have risen moderately in the Northeast, the No. 7 Tigers prospect's bat is starting to heat up.

Gerber collected four hits, including a two-run homer, to lead Double-A Erie to a 7-1 win over Altoona at PNG Field.

Box score

"The first couple of games didn't go my way," he said. "But it's a point in the season where you can kind of go and get it the next day. You go out there and get two, three hits and the average shoots up. I wasn't pushing the panic button. I started the season last year in the Florida State League. By the time I got up to Erie last year, it was already warm.

"It's been a little bit of an adjustment. I just wanted to stay calm and not freak out about the numbers and just play my game."

The 2014 third-round pick came into the game riding a six-game hitting streak and wasted no time picking up where he left off.

With Logan Watkins on after a two-out single in the first inning, Gerber took the first offering from Altoona starter Yeudy Garcia and blasted it over the fence in right-center field for his second roundtripper of the season.

Video: Gerber launches two-run homer

He's quickly seen results over the past week from reviewing each of his at-bats with SeaWolves hitting coach Phil Clark after the games.

"I've been just looking to have a little bit more rhythm at the plate," the outfielder said. "I have a tendency to tense up just a little bit. I just want to stay nice and loose and have some rhythm. I was looking for a fastball first pitch and he left one over the plate. I was able to put a good swing on it. I was just trying to square the ball up and have a good, quality at-bat."

Leading off the third, Gerber again took advantage of the first pitch, but used a different approach to get on base. The 24-year-old pushed a bunt down the third-base line that got far enough past Garcia for a single.

"It's something that I did on my own," he said. "I worked on it a lot this Spring Training. Last year, I saw more and more teams shifting guys, regardless of who you are. If you're a left-handed hitter, a lot of teams will throw everyone on the other side of the infield. And I can run a little bit, so it's a part of my game that I think can really benefit me in the future.

"[Third baseman Wyatt Mathisen] was way far back in that second at-bat. I just looked to get one down. When they play that far back, the bunt doesn't really have to be perfect."

Swinging in his next plate appearance, Gerber lined a single to right off reliever Miguel Rosario, but he was thrown out at second by right fielder Michael Suchy while trying to extend the hit into a double.

After grounding out to third in the seventh, the Creighton product came up in the ninth and tied a career high with his fourth hit when he singled to right off John Kuchno. The single bumped his average up to .302.

Video: Gerber singles for his fourth hit

"We were ahead at that point," Gerber said. "But you don't want to leave or take any at-bat for granted. When you look back on the season, you don't want to say, 'I gave this at-bat away.' I was just looking to have another quality at-bat and was able to square the ball up. Obviously when you get four hits, you know it's a good day. But it was a good team win all around, everyone was hitting. It's fun to play with this group of guys."

The Tennessee native had a career year in 2016, amassing professional bests with 18 home runs and 80 RBIs in 132 games between Class A Advanced and Double-A. Coming off that season and the experience of participating in Major League Spring Training for the third time, Gerber feels ready to replicate his success.

"It's just consistency. The home runs will come," he said. "If I go up there trying to hit 20, 25 home runs, it won't happen. I've got to go out there and shoot for quality at-bats and the hits will fall. All I can control is squaring the ball up and whatever happens after that happens."

MiLB include

Jason Krizan also had a big night for the SeaWolves, going 4-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs. Watkins collected three hits and No. 2 Tigers prospect Christin Stewart added a single.

Starter Anthony Vasquez (2-0) surrendered one run on six hits and one walk while striking out three.

No. 4 Pirates prospect Kevin Newman doubled as part of a two-hit game. 

Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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