Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish enjoys watching cowboy movies, especially those involving John Wayne.
So it's no surprise that Parrish used the plot of a John Wayne western called The Cowboys to sum up the Hens' 2010 season.
“In that movie, John Wayne is a rancher who loses all his farm hands,” Parrish explained. “He's forced to use a bunch of kids on a long cattle drive. It gets ugly at times, but those kids get it done in the end.
“And that's a lot like what happened to us this season.”
Yes, the Mud Hens relied on younger players to soldier through 2010, eventually finishing with a 70-73 record. The good news was that, at season's end, Toledo beat Columbus, a team that made the International League playoffs, eight times in their final 10 meetings and also won three of five against Louisville, another playoff club.
But the growing pains the Hens endured included an 11-game losing streak, the longest in club history, which resulted in a tumble under the .500 mark. While Toledo moved above the break-even mark twice after that streak, it then suffered a seven-game losing streak that condemned the Hens to a last-place finish in the International League's West Division, the team's first losing season after five straight winning records.
“You'd like to think, at the beginning of every season, that you can have a winning season,” Parrish said. “This year we played pretty well in April and May and the early part of June.
“But once we suffered a few losses to our pitching staff, we started to struggle. And we never got anything going after that, especially at home.”
The Mud Hens ranked among the IL pitching leaders through May thanks to starters such as Armando Galarraga (4-2, 3.65 ERA with Toledo), Enrique Gonzalez (4-5, 3.41), and Phil Dumatrait (4-1, 3.16). But when Galarraga and Gonzalez were promoted to Detroit and Dumatrait's contract was sold to a team in Korea, the Hens' pitching went south in a hurry.
Toledo had a 5.30 ERA in June and allowed 5.6 runs per game; things improved only slightly in July as the Hens had a 4.74 ERA and allowed 4.9 runs per game.
In August, injuries here and in Detroit forced the parent Tigers to bring a bunch of young — and inexperienced — position players to Toledo. The Hens suffered a seven-game losing streak midway through the month, but the team's 12-6 finish wasn't the only thing that brought a smile to Parrish's face.
“It was really enjoyable to have these young kids here at the end of the season,” Parrish admitted. “The first group that we had at the start of the season didn't like to do cage work and soft toss and stuff like that.
“The second batch came in here and was ready to work. They would soak up the information you gave them, and they worked really hard to get better.”
While the final numbers for young position players such as OFs Andy Dirks (.375, four homers, 17 RBIs in 22 games) and Ben Guez (.251-9-32 in 68 games) as well as 1B Michael Bertram (.231-3-17 in 28 games) may not look gaudy, they were impressive to Parrish.
“These are guys who took advantage of playing at a higher level,” Parrish said. “They worked hard, they learned some things, and now it's up to them to use the things they've learned to be better players.”
At season's end Toledo had a decent starting rotation, thanks in part to the addition of prospects such as LHPs Andy Oliver (3-4, 3.23 ERA) and Charlie Furbush (3-4, 6.29 ERA), along with RHPs Thad Weber (2-1, 1.64 ERA) and L.J. Gagnier (7-7, 3.51). LHP Ryan Ketchner (6-5, 4.00 ERA) also helped solidify things, according to Parrish.
“By the end of the season, I thought we had a good rotation,” he said. “I think the work of our starters was the reason we finished 12-6 more than anything else.”
Weber IL pitcher of week
Mud Hens RHP Thad Weber was named IL pitcher of the week, the league office announced Tuesday.
Weber won both of his starts last week, allowing just three hits and one run in eight strong innings against Louisville Aug. 31 before limiting Columbus to one run on six hits Sept. 5.
For the week, Weber had a 1.20 ERA after giving up just nine hits and two walks while fanning nine in 15 innings.
Contact John Wagner at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6481.