Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Mud Hens

International League notebook: Optimistically, Hens are OK in '03

Was one winning season enough to spoil Mud Hens' fans?

Was the 2002 season, which saw Toledo claim its first playoff berth in nearly 20 seasons and its first league title of any sort since 1968, a reason to become greedy?

Or is it fair to expect the Hens to challenge for a league title this and every season?

Those are the real questions Hens fans are asked when they want to know if this year's squad can win the West Division title again. So let's take a moment and see if there are legitimate comparisons between this year and last.

First, the records. After 64 games last season the Hens were 34-30, and the optimist would point out that this year's team is just three games behind that pace at 31-33. The pessimist would note that while the records are similar, the positions in the standings are not: This year's squad is six games behind first-place Louisville, while last year's team trailed the Bats by just 21/2 games at this point.

Pessimists also would point out that this year's team has been stripped of much of its offense. With the promotion of Craig Monroe, Kevin Witt, Warren Morris and Ernie Young to Detroit, the Hens have lost players responsible for roughly half of the team's home runs and 40 percent of its RBI total.

An optimist would be quick to counter that last year's team also suffered losses, particularly in the pitching staff. The 2002 Hens had lost 10 members of its Opening Day roster by this point a year ago, while this year's team has 12 different faces. What's more, last year's team suffered the loss of starters Mike Maroth, Adam Bernero and Brian Powell, as well as closer Oscar Henriquez, yet still won the division crown.

And the optimist would notice that the Tigers have added seasoned veterans such as pitcher Pat Ahearne, infielder Kevin Jordan and outfielder Patrick Lennon for a stretch run similar to last year.

Similar to last year? The pessimist would scoff at that; after all, last year's team went 18-10 in July and 19-13 in August and early September to win the title by two games. That is a .617 pace, and repeating that would be quite a feat.

One thing is certain: It's no longer 2002 at Fifth Third Field.

THANKS BUT NO THANKS: The Tigers had a chance to reclaim former Mud Hen catcher Mike Rivera, who was placed on waivers by the San Diego Padres last week.

But Detroit, which received outfielder Gene Kingsale in return for Rivera this past off-season, instead passed on claiming Rivera, who hit 20 home runs in just 74 games in Toledo last year.

Instead Rivera was claimed by the Chicago White Sox and sent to Charlotte.

Pitcher Joe Roa, the league's most valuable pitcher last season, was designated for assignment by Philadelphia and claimed by Milwaukee. Roa, who was 14-0 with a 1.86 ERA for Scranton last season, was added to the Indianapolis roster on Wednesday.

Louisville added outfielder Mark Budzinski, who began the season with Indianapolis. Budzinski joined the Bats on June 6 and promptly had a six-hit game; in his first five games with the Bats he had 12 hits and scored eight runs.

And Pawtucket's parent Boston Red Sox signed outfielder Chad Mottola as a free agent after Mottola was waived by Durham earlier in the week. Mottola was the league's MVP in 2000 after hitting a league-best 33 homers for Syracuse that season.

BRAVING THE RAINDROPS: Richmond has postponed or suspended seven games at the Diamond this season, including its last three home Saturday dates. One of those suspended games came against the Hens on April 10.

Finally, the Richmond front office tried to make the most of the wet weather in central Virginia and developed the Seattle Ticket Special for its games on Monday and Tuesday last week.

On those two days the R-Braves gave a free general-admission ticket to anyone who could prove they were from the state of Washington, had the surname Washington, or wore a hat or shirt featuring the logo of a Seattle-area sports team in homage to the traditionally rainy weather in the Northwest.

That suspended game between Toledo and the Braves will be picked up on June 26, with the Hens leading 3-0 in the fourth inning.

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