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Published: Friday, 5/26/2006

Spurling improves his mechanics with Hens

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
The Swamp Squad - from left, Katie DeLong, Jaime Golupski and Chad Rutkowski - was in the right place last night. Unfortunately, it was the wrong place for a baseball game as the Mud Hens and Buffalo Bisons were rained out. The Swamp Squad - from left, Katie DeLong, Jaime Golupski and Chad Rutkowski - was in the right place last night. Unfortunately, it was the wrong place for a baseball game as the Mud Hens and Buffalo Bisons were rained out.
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Mud Hens reliever Chris Spurling is used to encountering setbacks. He was drafted in the 47th round after pitching for a community college and had elbow surgery in 2004 after a strong rookie year with the Tigers.

So when he realized his pitching mechanics were off near the end of spring training, he just looked at it as something else to overcome.

Spurling, with Detroit for most of the past two seasons, started the season with the Tigers. He was optioned to Toledo on April 22 after pitching in six games with a 5.41 ERA.

"When he came down here, he was out of whack, no doubt about it," Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "The ball wasn't sinking. He had gotten away from his mechanics a little bit from what he had last year."

Spurling wasn't sure what exactly had gone wrong for him, but the coaching staff found film from last year to show him the difference in his pitching.

From left to right, Maumee Valley Country Day students Sarah Parry, 11, of Monclova Township, Linnea Johnson, 11, of Toledo, and Maya McCoy, 10, of Maumee try to wait out the rain delay.
From left to right, Maumee Valley Country Day students Sarah Parry, 11, of Monclova Township, Linnea Johnson, 11, of Toledo, and Maya McCoy, 10, of Maumee try to wait out the rain delay.
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"It was amazing, I came down and Jonesy [pitching coach Jeff Jones] picked it up the first day, what was wrong," Spurling said. "I've been correcting it every day since and getting back to where I was last year."

In 12 games for the Hens, Spurling has an 0.94 ERA. He's given up just two earned runs.

"After a few bullpens he got it back together," Parrish said. "He's been throwing well."

On Wednesday against Buffalo, Spurling entered the game in the seventh inning with the score 0-0 and runners on second and third with no outs. He got out of the inning unscathed. The Hens later won 1-0.

That outing "was an added bonus," Spurling said. "I came in with a blank mind, trying not to think too much about the runners on second and third, just trying to get ground balls."

Spurling is enjoying the challenge.

"I had to prove my worth again after my rookie year, and last year I made my way back and proved I belong," Spurling said. "It's a good feeling, I'm ready to do it again."

POSSIBLE PITCHING PROMOTION: Detroit starter Mike Maroth's rough outing yesterday against Kansas City, giving up six runs in one-third of an inning, could be a sign of a recurrence of his elbow problems. He will go to the doctor today. If Maroth goes on the disabled list, the Tigers might need to call up a starting pitcher. Hens candidates are Jordan Tata (1-1, 3.95 ERA) and Zach Miner (6-0, 2.18 ERA).

BUNTS: Ryan Ludwick's home run on Wednesday was the first the Buffalo pitching staff had given up in 76 innings. The Hens gave pitcher Matt Mantei his release yesterday. Mantei was on the disabled list with a sore right elbow. He had been trying to make a comeback after a career full of injuries. Last night's game was rained out. The Hens and Bisons will play a doubleheader today, with the first game at 5:30.

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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