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Published: Monday, 5/5/2008

Hens shuffle rotation plans Vasquez returns, Willis departs

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Mud Hens received both good and bad news about their starting rotation yesterday.

The good news is that Virgil Vasquez will be activated from the disabled list to start today when Lehigh Valley comes to Fifth Third Field to begin a four-game series.

Vasquez, who went on the disabled list April 21 with right shoulder tendinitis, was 1-2 with a 6.33 ERA in four starts with the Hens before being put on the DL. Last season the 25-year-old right-hander was 12-5 with a 3.48 ERA for the Hens.

"He'll be on a pitch count," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "He won't be quite at square one, but he won't be at 100 pitches, either."

To make room for Vasquez on the roster, the Mud Hens sent left-hander Jon Connolly to Double-A Erie. Connolly, who is expected to start for the SeaWolves tonight, was 0-3 with a 5.06 ERA in four starts for Toledo.

The bad news for the Mud Hens was that Dontrelle Willis will not make a second rehab start in Toledo. Willis, the Detroit left-hander who pitched for the Hens Friday, instead will throw on the side for the Tigers either Friday or Saturday. He threw a bullpen session yesterday in Minneapolis.

Willis was placed on the DL by Detroit April 12 after hyperextending his right knee in his second start of the season.

He apparently reinjured that knee in that rehab start here Friday when he tried to pirouette, then throw to first on a ball hit down the third-base line by Denard Span, the first batter he faced.

Willis didn't appear to suffer many ill effects after that play, allowing just three more hits and two earned runs in 42/3 innings of a 6-4 loss to Rochester. Willis didn't walk a batter and struck out four.

Right-hander Jeremy Johnson, who is 4-0 with a 3.86 ERA this season, is expected to start in place of Willis Wednesday.

THIS IS A TEST: Before yesterday's game, many of the Mud Hens were asked to take a random drug test in accordance with Major League Baseball's new drug policy.

The 22 Mud Hens who aren't on Detroit's 40-man roster - everyone but Brent Clevlen and Clete Thomas - were tested before the contest.

This was the first drug test Toledo has encountered this season.

THREE-DOT DATA: On Saturday night, the Mud Hens hit the 5-3 trifecta in the ninth inning. The Hens turned a 5-3 double play against the Red Wings on May 3 at Fifth Third Field. After going seven straight games without making an error, Toledo has committed nine errors in a six-game span. The Hens made one error yesterday, but it did not result in any Rochester runs. RHP Chris Lambert, who was struck by a pair of batted balls Saturday, reported no ill effects and will make his next scheduled start Thursday.

TONIGHT: Lehigh Valley will make its first-ever appearance at Fifth Third Field tonight. The IronPigs, who moved from Ottawa after last season, will send RHP Kevin Beirne (0-2, 5.50 ERA) to the mound to face Vasquez.



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