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Published: Saturday, 7/4/2009

Hens 'hurlers' get sore necks as hitters soar

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

No one wants to fall behind by 16 runs, which was the situation the Mud Hens faced in Columbus on Thursday night.

But the lopsided loss to the Clippers did provide a chance for Toledo outfielder Jeff Frazier to show his ability as a pitcher.

"I was feeling pretty good in the pen - ask

[catcher Max] St-Pierre, my curveball was dirty," Frazier said before yesterday's game at Fifth Third Field. "Then I got into the game and tried to do a little too much. I was trying to get outs instead of throwing strikes.

"Then I thought I should get the ball over the plate, let them hit it, and see what happens."

What happened was trouble. Frazier gave up back-to-back walks, an RBI double to Matt LaPorta, and a three-run homer to Tony Graffanino.

"The wind was blowing out hard to left, and there's a short porch [in Columbus]," Frazier said in jest. "Actually, I centered up the plate pretty well - I left them a few meatballs, that's for sure.

"On the home-run, [catcher] Dane [Sardinha] said he called for the curveball, and I threw a fastball down the middle - and [Graffanino] burned it. That was the kind of night it was."

Frazier eventually got out of the seventh, and Mike Hessman came on the eighth. While Frazier struggled, Hessman dominated: He retired three Clippers on three pitches.

"I knew I would throw strikes, so I wanted Dane to call a normal game," Hessman said. "He was giving me locations and spots - I wasn't going to go up their throwing cookies, that's for sure."

Frazier and Hessman were the first Toledo position players to take the mound since Kevin Hooper pitched the ninth inning of a game against Indianapolis on Sept. 5, 2005. Hooper earned the save in the Hens victory that day, and played all nine positions on the field in the process.

Hessman, who also pitched for the Hens in a 2005 game, said Triple-A hitters do not like to face position players on the mound.

"I know, as a hitter, when you see a position player come in to pitch, it [stinks]," Hessman said.

"You're expected to get a hit [against a position player], and if you don't, you feel like dirt afterwards.

"As a hitter, you really don't want to [face a position player]."

Both Frazier and Hessman agreed that spending some time toeing the rubber gave them an appreciation for the job Triple-A pitchers do.

"As a hitter, you get a tunnel vision on facing pitchers every day," Hessman said. "When you're standing up [on the mound] getting ready to throw them in there, it's totally different.

"Granted, you never want to get in that position where you have to do that. But after the game, instead of getting down because you got your tail whipped, you can joke and laugh about it. It takes the edge off a little."

Contact John Wagner at

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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