The Tigers' 1-9 start to the 2003 season certainly has Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish thinking.
And the thought he keeps having? Will I lose one of my players - or perhaps a bunch of them - to the parent club?
“You try not to think about it a whole lot, but you do,” Parrish said. “Some of the guys you think have a chance to play up there, so you've got to be prepared for that and adjust accordingly.”
Parrish doesn't think the adjustment will be tough if the Tigers decide to promote someone from the Hens' pitching staff. “We've got some guys in Double-A who can come up here if something happens [in Detroit],” Parrish said. “Position-player-wise, if we lose somebody we're going to need to get somebody [from Detroit].”
The pitching staff in Double-A Erie includes a pair of former Hens in right-handers Dave Borkowski and Pat Ahearne along with Jeff Farnsworth, who pitched in Detroit last season. Ahearne has started strong, posting an 0.71 earned-run average in his first two starts, while Borkowski and Farnsworth have struggled, compiling ERAs of 20.25 and 7.20, respectively.
In terms of position players, though, there aren't as many options in Erie. Most of this year's SeaWolves have not played above the Single-A level, meaning the Hens will hope to get someone from Detroit should the Tigers call up someone from Toledo.
That's why Parrish is more concerned with injuries in Detroit, not call-ups. “When I was [in Toledo] in '94 we were playing pretty good before injuries at the big-league level,” he said. “They called [Danny] Bautista up, they called [John] Flaherty up, and we got hurt hard in the middle of the field.
“We weren't the same club when we lost those two guys. And then a week or 10 days later someone else got hurt and we lost [Riccardo] Ingram. We just couldn't overcome that.”
Who are the possible candidates to be promoted to the Tigers?
By the way, don't look for Tiger phenom Jeremy Bonderman to be demoted to Toledo. Detroit pitching coach Bob Cluck wants to work with Bonderman in developing a change-up. What's more, even if the 20-year-old is sent to the minors, Tiger sources indicate Bonderman probably will be dispatched to Erie since he never had pitched above Single-A before his work with the Tigers this season.
For now Parrish seems resigned to the fact that the more the Tigers lose, the greater his chances of losing players. And Parrish said that's fine with him.
“That's our job here - try to give a guy every chance to succeed when he does get a call up there,” he said.
A BAD DAY: April 5 was a bad day for the Detroit organization.
While the parent Tigers were in the process of being shut out 7-0 by Chicago, the entire organization combined to get blitzed 33-0. The Mud Hens were pounded by Louisville 15-0, while Single-A Lakeland was slammed by Tampa 11-0.
Fortunately, Double-A Erie and Single-A West Michigan had games postponed by bad weather.
JUST HAPPY TO BE THERE: Former Mud Hens pitcher Tommy Phelps made the Florida Marlins' Opening Day roster this year, but the lefty who spent part of 2001 in Toledo was demoted last Tuesday.
But after toiling for 10 seasons in the minors, Phelps was just happy to spend a week in the majors.
“My dad [Bill] had major colon surgery, and he's always said he wants to see two things before he dies,” Phelps told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “One of them was to see the [Tampa Bay] Bucs go to the Super Bowl, and the other was to see me make it to the big leagues.”
Consider it done.