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Published: Saturday, 5/6/2006

Mantei does double duty for the benefit of Tigers' brass

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Matt Mantei has pitched in each of the Mud Hens last two games, which is unusual for a reliever in Triple-A baseball.

But there was a purpose behind using the 32-year-old right-hander on back-to-back nights.

Among those watching last night's game was Al Avila, vice-president and assistant general manager of the parent Tigers. Presumably he was at Fifth Third Field last night, and the previous night as well, to evaluate some of the Hens' top players.

That's why it's probably no coincidence that one player who saw action both nights was Mantei, who is looking to earn a promotion to Detroit and jump-start a career that has been stymied by injuries.

"The last couple of nights he's had a little bit of a control problem," Parrish said of Mantei's two outings. "He's not locating the fastball very well."

On Thursday he threw a scoreless inning, but the effort wasn't pretty. Eight of his first 10 pitches were balls, putting two runners on with none out.

Mantei then fell behind Carlos Mendez 3-1 before getting the former Hen to bounce into a double play, then coaxed Michael Ryan to pop out.

Mantei threw 18 pitches in the inning, only seven strikes.

Last night he got two outs but walked three batters, one intentionally, to leave with the bases loaded. Reliever Corey Hamman got Ryan to hit a potential rally-ending grounder to shortstop Don Kelly, but his misplay allowed the run to score.

Mantei threw 26 pitches, only 10 strikes. His fastball was clocked in the high 80s to low 90s with a high of 93. It was quite a departure from Mantei's first two Toledo appearances since coming off the disabled list April 27. He got four outs, three by strikeouts, at Louisville April 28, then allowed just one hit while fanning two in two shutout innings at Indianapolis May 1.

Mantei is looking to continue a major-league career that saw him amass 93 saves, including 29 with Arizona in 2003. But Mantei also has been on the disabled list every year since 1995.

THREE-DOT DATA: RHP Tony Fiore will get the start for the Mud Hens Monday when they open a four-game series against Norfolk. Fiore will take the place of LHP Wil Ledezma, who went on the DL Wednesday with a strained right oblique. Ryan Ludwick singled in the fifth to extend his hit streak to seven games, but Josh Phelps went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks to see his six-game hitting streak end. All three pitchers involved in last night's decision played for the 2003 Cleveland Indians: Ricardo Rodriguez got the win; Chad Durbin took the loss; and Chad Paronto got the save.



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