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Published: Sunday, 5/13/2001

Hens find hitters lag, when pitchers were concern

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Before the season, concerns about this year's Mud Hens centered on the team's young pitching staff.

But as the Hens reach the quarter mark of the season, hitting has been the team's Achilles heel.

Toledo entered last night's Pawtucket game batting .254, ranking the Hens 11th in the 14-team International League.

And even though only four other teams have more home runs than Toledo's 32, only three teams have scored fewer runs than the Hens' 145.

Meanwhile, Hens pitchers began last night with a 3.87 team ERA, which is ninth in the pitching-rich IL. Last year's team had a 5.22 ERA.

“We started swinging the bats in Buffalo, but we're still not at the level our hitting has to be at to win consistently,” Hens manager Bruce Fields said. “With the pitching we've been getting, we're capable of (winning consistently) - provided we start hitting.”

The lack of offense has been a big reason the Hens are 3-9 in one-run games. That's why Rios' game-winning pinch-hit double Friday night was such a relief.

“Without a doubt we felt relief to win that type of game,” Fields said. “You could feel the relief on the bench (after Rios' hit) - we had been on that wrong end of that type of game too often.”

Friday's game showed what Fields can do to help the Hens' offense get started: Toledo had three sacrifices and had base-runners moving on several other occasions.

“I'll continue to (sacrifice) to keep putting our guys in situations where they can come through with a big hit,” Fields said. “If you're never in those situations, you never have a chance to come through.”

MR. CONSISTENCY: When Fields sends lefty Mike Maroth out to start, the manager knows exactly what he'll get.

In Maroth's seven starts this season he has pitched six innings five times; in the other two starts he threw 62/3 and 61/3 innings.

Maroth has given up four, five or six hits in all but one of his starts and has walked three or four in all but two of his starts. Toledo has scored three runs or fewer in all but two of Maroth's seven starts.

WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE? Scranton/Wilkes-Barre set a record that may never be broken for most managers in one week: five.

The managerial merry-go-round began last Sunday when manager Marc Bombard was called up to Philadelphia to replace Phillies' third-base coach John Vukovich, who was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor.

Phillies roving outfield instructor Milt Thompson originally was announced as Bombard's replacement, but that lasted about an hour before hitting coach Jerry Martin was handed the reins.

Martin managed two games before being replaced by Bill Dancy, the Phillies' minor league field coordinator and a former Red Barons manager.

Dancy managed three games, then announced he would not travel with the team as it began a road trip to Louisville and Indianapolis; that position fell to Don Long, the Phillies' roving minor-league hitting coordinator.

WHAT DID I DO WRONG? Tampa Bay promoted left-handed pitcher Joe Kennedy to Durham this week, and the 22-year-old prospect was inserted into the Bulls' starting rotation.

The pitcher who was taken out of the rotation was veteran right-hander Mickey Callaway, who was 4-1 and has won 12 of his past 13 decisions with Durham.



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