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Published: Tuesday, 6/15/2010

Rochester's Hennessey visits home Hen house

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The trip from Whitmer High School to Fifth Third Field is a seven-mile trip that normally takes roughly 15 minutes.

For Brad Hennessey, the trip took 13 years.

That journey included stops in Youngstown and San Francisco as well as lots of time spent in Florida.

Oh, and there also was a trip to the surgeon's table.

The Mud Hens' Jeff Frazier watches his three-run in the fifth inning. He has hit four homes over the last two games. The Mud Hens' Jeff Frazier watches his three-run in the fifth inning. He has hit four homes over the last two games.
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But Hennessey was at the ballpark with his Rochester teammates last night, watching his squad suffer a 7-5 loss to the Mud Hens. It marked the first time in his 10-year pro career that he has been in a professional uniform in Toledo.

"It is great to be able to come home and sleep in my own bed, especially since I've been in Fort Myers, Fla., since March and haven't seen my family in two months," Hennessey said. "Hopefully this will be something that will give a good kick-start to the form I'm looking for."

Hennessey was drafted by San Francisco in 2001 after a stellar career at Youngstown State University. He progressed through the Giants' system before reaching the big-league club in 2004, spending parts of five seasons in the big leagues.

His problems began in spring training with Baltimore in 2009, when he experienced arm problems in his first start with the Orioles.

"My arm was really hurting - I never pitched in spring training [for the Orioles] after that," Hennessey said. "I ended up rehabbing in extended [spring training] for months on end, and I thought I was getting back to normal before I injured [my arm] again."

The result was "Tommy John" surgery, the now-famous procedure where the elbow ligament is replaced by a tendon from another part of the body. The surgery took place on June 19 last season and was followed by a long, difficult rehabilitation.

"It's a lot of range-of-motion rehab," Hennessey said. "My arm was locked in a brace for two months, and after that it's a lot of rehab using the one-pound dumbbells, which is a little embarrassing.

"But I thought it went quickly, and I attribute that to being home for the whole process. Having a summer at home with the family was nice. I was worried that not being in a professional setting would hinder my progress, but I was diligent about doing my work. I ended up being ready to go in just eight or nine months."

Hennessey made his first appearances for the Red Wings on June 1, less than 12 months after the surgery. It was the first game appearance for the 30-year-old right-hander since Sept. 26, 2008.

"There have been some bumps and bruises along the way, but my goal is to reach my 2007 capabilities in 24 months at the latest," said Hennessey, remembering the season where he had 19 saves and a 3.42 ERA for the Giants. "I know this year may be tough, and I may be banged up a little bit. But I'm looking forward to having a healthy year and get back to 100 percent next year."

Hennessey is 1-0 - he earned the win in Columbus Thursday night - with a 5.68 ERA in four appearances for the Wings. But neither he nor Rochester manager Tom Nieto is focused on the numbers the 1997 Whitmer grad produces.

"I think the most important thing is that he can go out there, pitch a couple of innings, and still feel good a couple of days later," Nieto said. "That's more important than the results. We're looking at the long-term with him.

"He's healthy, he feels good, and he bounces back pretty well. We'll just go from there."

Hennessey's return to his hometown saw a number of friends and family - his wife Erin and children Emma and Colin were at last night's contest - in the stands at Fifth Third Field.

"I left a lot of tickets [Saturday] night, so I think I'm covered," Hennessey said. "But I have friends and people I know from around the city coming up and saying hello."

They all saw the Mud Hens use a four-run, fifth-inning rally to claim a comeback win over Rochester.

Toledo got a home run from Jeff Frazier in the first and an RBI single by Robinzon Diaz in the second, but the Red Wings countered with two runs in both the second and third off Hens starter Scot Drucker.

The Mud Hens' fifth-inning rally featured a run-scoring single by Will Rhymes and another home run by Frazier, this one a three-run shot to left-center.

It marked the second consecutive night Frazier had pounded a pair of homers and gives his 13 this season, tying his career high.

"He gets a pitch to hit, he's squaring it up right now," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "When you're in a groove like that, you just have to pitch around him until he cools off."

Toledo added an unearned run in the seventh, but it was unnecessary thanks to a fine performance by Brendan Wise out of the Hens' bullpen. Wise came on in the fourth and retired all nine batters he faced to allow Toledo to come back and win.

"We're trying to figure out how we can pitch nine without using a position player," Parrish said. "Wise came in and gave us three innings - and held them right there. He was the star of the game, pitching-wise."

NOTES: Wilkin Ramirez left the game in the fourth after injuring his knee in a rundown. He probably will not play today, but his status is listed as day-to-day. … Brent Dlugach was injured in the same rundown as Ramirez - both were retired in an unusual double play - but Dlugach stayed in the game despite a sore ankle.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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