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Published: Wednesday, 4/18/2007

Mud Hens' pen closing out foes


So far this season the Mud Hens' bullpen has benefited from having multiple closers.

Well, actually only right-hander Aquilino Lopez finishes tight games for the Hens. But several other pitchers have made it a habit of closing down opponents.

Three relievers - Lopez and lefties Tim Byrdak and Vic

Darensbourg - have not

allowed a run this season, while two others - right-handers Jason Karnuth and Jeremy Johnson - have given up just one run.

Karnuth, who has closed games for Toledo over the past two seasons, said he brings the same mentality to the mound even though he's not closing games this season.

"Whether I'm in in the fifth, sixth, eighth, that's my inning to 'close,'•" Karnuth said. "I have to come in and get outs. When I'm throwing one inning or two, that's how I approach it - I have to close them out of that particular inning."

Byrdak said relievers become accustomed to pitching outside the spotlight.

"When I was in Baltimore, [pitching coach] Leo Mazzone always said the job of the bullpen is to just not screw up the game," Byrdak said. "You go out and do your job, put up zeroes and hand the ball to the closer.

"If you're looking for fame and glory, then be a starter or closer, don't be a middle reliever."

Byrdak, who missed most of last season because of bone chips in his pitching elbow, has allowed just three hits and no walks while striking out seven in 71/3 innings. He said he has noticed improvement in his pitching since the start of spring training.

"I think the biggest thing is getting some innings under my belt," he said. "I lost a lot of time last year. When I was sent down, [Detroit pitching coach] Chuck [Hernandez] and [Detroit manager] Jim [Leyland] said they saw the progress from the start of spring to the end of spring.

"Comparing where I was at the start of spring to the end of spring, I felt I got better. Hopefully that continues here."

Darensbourg has surrendered just two hits and one walk while whiffing five in 52/3 innings, while Lopez has allowed just one baserunner - on a walk - while fanning four in 51/3 innings.

Johnson has given up three hits and a walk with five strikeouts in 41/3 innings, while Karnuth has allowed seven hits and a walk while fanning six in 10 innings. Karnuth leads the International League with seven appearances.

"That's our job: to come in when we're called on and get outs," Karnuth said.

Jordan Tata flew to California yesterday and will meet with noted orthopedic specialist Dr. Lewis Yocum today.

Tata is on the disabled list because of soreness in his pitching shoulder that has prevented him from pitching this season.

THREE-DOT DATA: Today's game is the first of four School Celebration Days the Mud Hens will host this year. The starting time for the game is 10:30 a.m. Kevin Hooper and Timo Perez both singled in the first inning to extend hitting streaks. Perez has a hit in all 11 games the Mud Hens have played this season, while Hooper has a six-game hit streak. Bellevue native Brad Snyder, an outfielder for the Bisons, did not play last night because of an ankle he twisted in Columbus. His status is day-to-day.

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