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Published: Thursday, 4/10/2008

Pitch counts hurt Hens bullpen

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish succinctly described the condition of his bullpen yesterday.

"We could use a rainout," Parrish said.

Entering last night's 10-3 win over the Charlotte Knights, Hens relievers had worked 27 innings in six games, and 192/3 innings since Saturday night. And tonight's starter, right-hander Jeremy Johnson (1-0, 2.25 ERA) was groomed to be a relief pitcher in spring training and will be limited to about 60 pitches.

Parrish said he was hoping for four innings out of Johnson, which means he'll need another five from his overworked bullpen. He said Triple-A teams often find themselves in these situations early in the season because so many of their pitchers are on strict pitch counts.

"Everything down here is geared toward not getting them injured," Parrish said.

Parrish cited two causes for the amount of innings logged by his relievers lately.

The first was the elbow injury to starter Macay McBride, which forced him out of Saturday night's game after one inning. Johnson was actually the winning pitcher that night, allowing a run on four hits in three innings.

Parrish's other explanation was the early summons by Detroit of reliever Francis Beltran, whose roster spot in Toledo was taken by Ryan Raburn, a position player.

"We're pitching one pitcher short right now," Parrish said. "It's tough to pitch one pitcher short, especially when guys aren't allowed to throw three days in a row."

The bullpen was helped last night by starting pitcher Armando Galarraga, who ate up seven innings and made it so Parrish only had to use one reliever, Aaron Fultz.

Reliever Ian Ostlund [neck strain] will come off the disabled list today, but fellow reliever Matt Righter is being shipped out to make room for Ostlund.

Righter joined the Hens on Sunday from the short-season Single-A Oneonta roster, and made two appearances for Toledo.

DIFFERENT LOOK: Some Hens hitters were locked in against Charlotte knuckleball specialist Charlie Haeger [he prefers "Charlie" over "Chuck"] Monday night, who gave up seven runs on nine hits in seven innings.

But one Toledo hitter who struggled with the knuckler was Jeff Larish, who struck out three times against Haeger and four times overall.

"The ones he was throwing me were pretty nasty," Larish said.

Larish said he had faced knuckleball pitchers previously, and the key to hitting that pitch is to treat it like other offspeed pitches.

"I just have to tip my hat to him, he threw me some dirty knucklers," Larish said.

Larish rebounded from his tough outing by blasting a home run in his first at-bat last night.

REMEMBER WHEN: Last night marked the sixth anniversary of the first game played at Fifth Third Field.

On April 9, 2002, the Hens beat the Norfolk Tides 7-5 in front of 12,134 fans. Tim Kalita was the winning pitcher and Eric Munson homered for Toledo.

The Hens have recorded 176 sellouts since Fifth Third Field opened and nearly 3.5 million fans have seen a game there.

BUNDLE UP: The Hens have been forewarned of the weather awaiting them in Buffalo when their first road trip of the year begins tomorrow.

Hanging up in Toledo's clubhouse is a weather forecast for the four days the Hens will spend in Buffalo, and temperatures are predicted to get no warmer than 49 degrees. A chance of snow is predicted for Sunday and Monday.

At least the games scheduled for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are day games.

TONIGHT: Johnson is scheduled to pitch for the Hens against Charlotte right hander Lance Broadway (1-0, 0.00 ERA) at 6:30.



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