Jay Sborz doesn't remember much about his first appearance in a Mud Hens uniform.
"I remember I was nervous," he said with a laugh.
Sborz first took the mound for Toledo at Indianapolis on June 30 last year. He threw a pair of scoreless innings, striking out three, and earned a victory when the Hens scored twice in the eighth to claim a 9-7 victory.
"I remember that I threw mostly fastballs," Sborz said. "I remember that I struck out the last batter I faced on a 3-2 breaking ball. He took it.
"I realized that I had taken a step up and I was heading somewhere."
But that appearance did more than earn Sborz a victory: it turned the 25-year-old right-hander into a bona fide Detroit prospect.
"We wrote him up as a prospect based on that two-inning stint in Indianapolis last year," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish admitted. "He was running it up to the plate at 94, 95 miles an hour with a plus breaking ball.
"But then he got hurt."
Getting hurt has been a problem for the 6-4, 210-pounder ever since he was selected in the second round of the 2003 draft. Shoulder tendonitis forced him to miss most of 2006 and led to surgery that ruined most of the following season.
"Probably the best thing that could have happened to me was having surgery," Sborz admitted. "It made me grow up. It made me think about what I had to do to play, and what I had to do to make [my career] last."
The right-hander pitched in 40 games for Single-A Lakeland in 2008 before splitting time between the Flying Tigers, Double-A Erie, and the Hens last season, when he posted a 2-2 record and 2.27 ERA.
This season Sborz leads the International League with six saves, giving up just three hits and two walks while fanning eight in 71/3 scoreless innings entering last night's contest with Columbus.
"There's always room for improvement," Sborz said. "I'm still working on a change-up, and I know I'm going to need to get that pitch down.
"And I always need to work on command - that's the main thing. I know that if I throw strikes, I'm going to get outs. So I need to throw the ball over the plate."
What will it take for Sborz to advance to the major leagues?
"I tell him to stay healthy and keep working," pitching coach A.J. Sager said. "His pitches are good enough to pitch in the major leagues. He just needs to stay healthy and prove that he can be consistent."
LUGO UPDATE: Mud Hens pitcher Ruddy Lugo was listed in fair condition at Toledo Hospital yesterday evening. Lugo was hit on the right temple by a line drive off the bat of the Clippers' Jason Donald Friday, who said he was bothered by the play.
"I got freaked out, it happened so fast," Donald said. "I thought, 'Just run to the bag and see what happens.'
"I can't hit a ball harder than that. Thankfully he didn't get knocked out."
A short time after Donald had hit Lugo Friday night, the Indians prospect talked to the Toledo pitcher before he left the game.
"I just let him know that I wanted to make sure he was all right," Donald said. "He said, 'Yeah, I'm OK' and he thanked me."
Parrish also pointed out that Columbus pitching coach Charlie Nagy came to the Hens' clubhouse to express condolences on behalf of the Clippers, a gesture Parrish called, "A really classy move."
ROSTER UPDATE: The Mud Hens are expected to activate outfielder Clete Thomas from the disabled list today as they begin a two-game series in Columbus. Thomas went on the DL April 15 with a hamstring strain.
Last night infielder Max Leon missed his second straight game after taking a pitch off his foot Thursday, while catcher Mike Rabelo has not played since April 21 because of leg problems.
Both are expected to be available for today's 1:05 game at Huntington Park.
THREE-DOT DATA: Jeff Frazier extended his current hit streak to nine games by singling in the third inning. … Danny Worth saw a five-game hit streak end with an 0-for-4 night.35.00502 -87.82111