Scott Sizemore began this season in Double-A. Brent Dlugach began it in a sort of limbo.
But the Mud Hens' current keystone combination has parlayed strong starts to this season into berths in mid-season all-star games. Sizemore has earned a spot in the Futures Game, which will be played in St. Louis July 12, while Dlugach was named to the Triple-A All-Star Game, which will be played in Portland, Ore., July 15.
Sizemore was named as a second baseman on the U.S. squad for the Futures Game after hitting .307 with nine homers and 33 RBIs in 59 games with the Erie SeaWolves. He was promoted to Toledo on June 15 and has hit .315 with two homers and eight RBIs in his first 17 games with the Hens.
"I was super-excited [to earn a spot in that game]," Sizemore said. "I know it's a huge honor, and a lot of good guys get picked for that game. I'm just happy to be a part of it."
Sizemore, who began the season ranked as the seventh-best prospect in the Tigers' farm system, has raised his stock in the organization. That's especially important because Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco is in the final year of his current contract.
"That's a big honor for him, because it's a big showcase for him," Hens skipper Larry Parrish said. "I went to the game last year in New York, and I learned that the best of the best in the minor leagues are there."
Sizemore was originally in yesterday's lineup but was pulled because of a wrist injury.
For Dlugach, the call to Portland comes as a bit of a surprise, since the shortstop has played in just 29 games in the last two seasons.
"For a guy that basically hasn't played for two years, that's really a feather in his cap," Parrish said of Dlugach. "It's really amazing. It's like bringing a horse that's been on the shelf for two years and winning a Breeders' Cup race."
Dlugach said the work for this season began last October, when he spent extensive time playing for the Tigers' instructional league team.
"I got a lot of the rust knocked off [my game] then," Dlugach said. "But honestly, I didn't play very well down there: I felt I was always a step behind, physically and mentally.
"In the last week I started to catch up a little bit. Then I had a full off-season to work out without having to worry about an injury."
In 73 games for the Hens, Dlugach has hit .283 with nine home runs and team-leading 39 RBIs.
"He's smooth out at shortstop," Parrish said of Dlugach. "If you look at his numbers, he's hitting well. No one in our organization thought he would hit that well, especially after missing the past two years.
"He's shown power and he's close to 40 RBIs."
PITCHING MOVES: The Mud Hens suffered a double dose of pitching trouble in Wednesday's contest in Columbus. Scheduled starter Alfredo Figaro was scratched from the start because of a right wrist strain, which sent him to the disabled list before Friday's game.
RHP Josh Rainwater was promoted from Double-A Erie before Friday's game to take Figaro's spot on the roster.
Ruddy Lugo took the ball in Figaro's place and was shelled in what became a 16-3 loss. Lugo managed to get just two outs and allowed eight hits and a walk that resulted in eight earned runs.
Parrish said Lugo has had trouble staying loose at different points in recent starts, and on Wednesday he never did get loose. Parrish said the cause of the problem has not been determined; an off-day tomorrow will allow the Hens to skip Lugo's next scheduled start, and hopefully rest will solve the problem.
Before yesterday's game the Hens released RHP Ron Chiavacci and signed RHP Nate Bump. Bump, who was 8-2 with a 2.49 ERA in 12 starts for the Camden Riversharks of the Atlantic League, will start Tuesday's game against Louisville.
THREE-DOT DATA: Indians' fans have an opportunity to see RHP Fausto Carmona pitch in Toledo because he is scheduled to make a rehab start for Columbus today Fifth Third Field. Last night the Mud Hens wore patriotic jerseys in honor of the Fourth of July. The jerseys were auctioned during the game, with the proceeds to be given to ALS research.