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Published: Sunday, 6/6/2010

Rhymes' season with Hens produces ups and downs

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Mud Hen infielder Will Rhymes, right, being congratulated by teammate Brent Dlugach, started strong, but stumbled on road. Mud Hen infielder Will Rhymes, right, being congratulated by teammate Brent Dlugach, started strong, but stumbled on road.
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

Few players have seen their situation change as much as Will Rhymes did in the span of one month.

Rhymes was a vital cog in the Mud Hens lineup in April, batting .345, ninth-best in the International League, and tying for the league lead with 29 hits that had helped produce seven RBIs and 12 runs scored.

"He was doing the things he needs to do to be successful," Toledo manager Larry Parrish said of Rhymes. "He was keeping the ball out of the air, hitting line drives and bunting.

"Then he had a terrible road trip."

Rhymes went 4-for-31 (.129) on the Hens' eight-game swing through Norfolk and Durham May 6-13, including a 1-for-15 (.067) finish. Believe it or not, things then got worse for Rhymes.

Scott Sizemore, who began the season as Detroit's second baseman, was demoted to Toledo in mid-May and Carlos Guillen moved in from the outfield to take Sizemore's place with the Tigers.

"When Sizemore got sent down, [Rhymes] wasn't called up even though he was playing pretty well," Parrish said. "It makes you wonder where you stand in the organization, and you wonder what your future is.

"He's going through some things the average person doesn't think about."

Compounding all those problems is the glut of infielders on the Mud Hens' current roster. Sizemore will see extensive action at second, while Danny Worth and Brent Dlugach, both shortstops, need to play to continue their development, making playing time scarce for both Rhymes and Max Leon.

"[Rhymes] had to try to play third, and that's tough," Parrish said. "He feels he can play second, and he can. When he moves to third, he's out of his element a little bit.

"Some times in this game you're asked to move to a new position, and that's tough. It puts more pressure on your offense, because you feel you aren't going to win a game with your defense, so you'd better hit."

The good news for Parrish and the Hens is that Rhymes is handling his situation well. One of the best examples of that came when the Houston native slugged a key pinch-hit double in Toledo's come-from-behind win over Lehigh Valley in the first game of a June 1 doubleheader.

"He's in a tough situation right now," Parrish said of Rhymes. "But if you come here with an attitude that's in the wrong place, that isn't going to help anything.

"The only way you can change where you're at is with your play. And if that doesn't change the team you're with, then at least you're playing for 29 other clubs."

TOUGH START: LHP Phil Dumatrait struggled in his first start for his new team, the LG Twins of the Korean Baseball Organization.

Dumatrait surrendered nine hits and three walks in just 3 1/3 innings, which resulted in 10 earned runs. He was better in his second start, giving up seven hits and five runs in a victory.

"He pitched better than in his last game, especially his control," said his manager, Jong Hoon Park. "He will be competitive in Korean baseball. He is ready to fight against hitters. I just told him to just believe in your teammates. He will be better in his next game."

ALL-STAR VOTING STARTS: On-line voting for the Triple-A All-Star team is taking place now through June 25.

The Mud Hens on the ballot are C Robinzon Diaz, 1B Jeff Larish, 2B Will Rhymes, SS Brent Dlugach and 3B Danny Worth along with OFs Jeff Frazier, Clete Thomas and Casper Wells and DH Max Leon.

Mud Hen pitchers on the ballot are starters Enrique Gonzalez and Alfredo Figaro as well as relievers Casey Fien, Scot Drucker, Daniel Schlereth and Jay Sborz.

The fan vote will constitute one-third of each player's final total, with the media vote and a field manager-general manager vote responsible for the remaining two-thirds.

The Triple-A All-Star game will be played Wednesday, July 14 at Lehigh Valley's Coca-Cola Park.

Ballots can be found at www.mudhens.com and www.ilbaseball.com.

WELCOME BACK: Lehigh Valley C Dane Sardinha had a kind word for Toledo when he came back to town with his new team earlier this week.

"It's exciting to catch up with guys you've spent time with the past few years," said Sardinha, who played for the Hens in each of the past three seasons. "The fans here were great, so it's good to come to a place where the fans like to come and watch baseball."

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481



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