After last year's Mud Hens claimed the International League's West Division title, nine players were called up to play for the parent Detroit Tigers in September.
After this year's team gets done trying to escape the IL West basement, seven different Mud Hens will be recalled to the Tigers, manager Alan Trammell announced yesterday.
Three of those Hens will join Detroit today as catcher A.J. Hinch finishes an injury-rehab assignment with Toledo, outfielder Cody Ross is called up to replace Bobby Higginson (hamstring) and pitcher Chris Mears starts for the Tigers against Cleveland at Comerica Park.
After the Mud Hens finish their season against Indianapolis today that pair will be joined by pitchers Matt Anderson, Eric Eckenstahler and Gary Knotts and catcher Matt Walbeck.
Among the Toledo players who will not join the Tigers are infielder Omar Infante, outfielder Andres Torres and pitchers Pat Ahearne and Seth Greisinger.
Perhaps the most curious non-promotion was that of Infante, who began the season as Detroit's starting shortstop and was ranked as the fourth-best prospect in the Tiger farm system. But the 21-year-old hit just .213 in 64 games with Detroit this year before being sent to Toledo on June 28, then batted only .226 with 18 errors in 63 games for the Hens.
“I hope [not being called up] sends a message,” Trammell told Detroit reporters before yesterday's game. “He needs to get it together a little bit. I think what I'm most disappointed in is that he hasn't been as attentive defensively as we like to see. And that is a problem that we're going to address.”
Infante said he respected the Tigers' decision, adding, “This year has been a bad year, but I hope to come back and play hard next year.”
Trammell said the reason Torres wasn't recalled was the glut of outfielders on the Tiger roster. “Andres, unfortunately, has slipped somewhat, too, offensively. I still feel that defensively he played well for us, but offensively he's slipped.”
Torres played in 23 games for the Tigers this season and hit .224. With the Mud Hens he has hit .255 in 69 games and stolen 26 bases.
“There's nothing you can do,” Torres said. “I guess I didn't do well enough.”
A key component in the call-ups was each player's status on Detroit's 40-man roster. Players must be on it to be added in September; otherwise teams often must move players off to make room for newcomers.
While roster status didn't affect many position players - Ernie Young, who has hit 21 homers with 83 RBIs in Toledo, is the most notable exception - it seemed to be a linchpin for many of the pitching decisions the Tigers made.
For example, when asked why Knotts received a promotion and Greisinger didn't, Trammell said, “Creating a roster spot is an issue. That is part of it. [Greisinger] is on the radar screen. He really is. He's shown a lot of people this year that he has come back.”
Greisinger has a 6-9 record with a 3.97 ERA for the Mud Hens, while Knotts is 4-6 with a 5.13 ERA since his demotion from Detroit on June 23. With the Tigers Knotts was 2-5 with a 5.04 ERA.
“Greisinger is probably wondering, `Why Knotts and not me?'” said Tiger pitching coach Bob Cluck. “Good point. [Greisinger] isn't on the [40-man] roster. Maybe that was a stumbling block. I don't know. It would have been nice to look at Greisinger.”
“But one of the guys who deserved a call-up was Pat Ahearne.”
In August Greisinger posted a 2.63 ERA and posted “quality starts” - allowing three earned runs or less and pitching six innings or more - in all but one of his six starts. Knotts had a 6.00 ERA in six August starts, four of which were quality starts, but Ahearne had a 2.94 ERA last month in five starts, four of them quality starts.
“I didn't sign a contract with Detroit to pitch in Toledo, so yes, I have aspirations to pitch at that level,” Ahearne said. “My numbers over the course of the season are my numbers, so I'll let them be my statement.”
With Toledo Ahearne has a 3.36 ERA. He began the season at Double-A Erie and was 4-1 with a 2.07 ERA.
“Pat is not a guy who's going to wow you with his fastball,” said Hens manager Larry Parrish. “He wows you with his consistency. He keeps you in the game every time, and to me that's as good a thing as you can say about a pitcher.”
- JOHN WAGNER