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Published: Friday, 5/19/2006

Mud Hens pound out 16 hits against Norfolk fill-ins

BY RICH RADFORD
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

NORFOLK, Va. - The Toledo Mud Hens thought they were going to face a major league pitcher yesterday. They did . . . for all of five pitches.

After that, they got to beat up a tired and overworked bullpen, followed by a couple of position players who were pressed into mound duty.

The result was to be expected as the Mud Hens collected 16 hits in an 8-2 victory over the Norfolk Tides at Harbor Park.

Brian Bannister, who was 2-0 for the New York Mets before straining his right hamstring on April 26, made his first rehabilitation start in his battle back into the Mets' starting rotation. He pulled the rip cord after he felt discomfort on his fifth pitch and was done for the day.

After that, the Tides had to scramble for almost nine innings and ended up using backup catcher Joe Hietpas for an inning and utility infielder Ray Navarrete for two. If Triple-A baseball teams could throw in the towel, it would have been tossed early.

As it was, the Mud Hens used the day as batting practice, spearheaded by Mike Hessman and Ryan Raburn, who both collected two home runs on the afternoon.

David Espinosa led the hit parade by going 4-for-5.

Hessman is hitting .111 on the season, but has nine home runs. His only other hits are a single and two doubles.

"You hate to see a guy get hurt," Hessman said. "Hopefully [Bannister] can get healthy and get back to the bigs quickly. We got into their bullpen early and that pen hasn't gotten a lot of rest lately."

Hessman said his low average is perplexing, but that he doesn't "feel that bad at the plate. But it would be nice to get a single every once in a while and get my average up."

While Hietpas hadn't pitched since he was 15 and playing American Legion ball, he lit up the speed pitch gun at Harbor Park with a 93 mph fastball.

"Yeah, it was 93, but that didn't stop them from hitting it," he said.

The Mud Hens collected eight extra-base hits yesterday, which was one fewer than they had the day before. In the last two days, they have scored 20 runs and have reached the .500 mark with a 20-20 record.



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