Mud Hens starting pitcher Andy Oliver fires a pitch against the Pawtucket Red Sox. Oliver threw just two innings before being pulled and learning he was promoted and will start for Detroit on Saturday.
Playing a game at 10:30 in the morning wasn’t the only unusual thing happening at Fifth Third Field on Tuesday.
The Mud Hens saw two members of their starting rotation get called up — one before the game, one after he had thrown 38 pitches — in a crazy contest that visiting Pawtucket eventually won 3-2 in 10 innings.
Before the game Detroit called up Adam Wilk to take the spot of Phil Coke, who was placed on the disabled list. In that same release, the Tigers announced that Andy Oliver would make Coke’s scheduled start Saturday against Boston.
At the time, Oliver didn’t know about the promotion: he was on the mound pitching for the Hens.
“[Toledo manager Phil] Nevin told me that [Brayan] Villareal was going to be throwing a bullpen, so don’t worry about it,” Oliver said. “In the third inning Nevin came out and took me out — and told me [I would start for Detroit Saturday].
“I had no idea.”
Nevin admitted that being able to deliver the good news to two of his pitchers was one of the best parts of his job as manager.
“I’m happy for them, because they both worked very hard while they were here,” Nevin said. “[Oliver] is ready to go: He’s learned a lot from last year and made a lot of improvements. I think the experience of having been there last year means he’s going to do just fine.
“And that was a fun call to make [to Wilk]. When a guy isn’t expecting it, that’s neat. He was excited, and I’m sure he’ll have a good night.”
Wilk was 3-4 with a 3.86 ERA in eight starts for the Mud Hens, while Oliver was 4-3 with a 3.31 ERA after giving up one run on four hits in two innings of work on Tuesday.
The bad news caused by the pair of promotions Tuesday was two-fold: first, having Oliver pitch just two innings meant the Toledo bullpen would have to cover the remaining innings.
Fortunately, several Hens relievers pitched well: Villareal did not allow a baserunner and struck out three in his three scoreless innings, while Matt Hoffman gave up only an unearned run in the sixth and Brendan Wise also had three scoreless frames.
Pawtucket's Matt Sheely steals second as Mud Hens second baseman Argenis Diaz can't handle the high throw from catcher Max St-Pierre
“I thought Brendan Wise was outstanding, giving us three innings. I didn’t really have much pitching, so to throw the number of pitches [he did] was big.”
The second pitching problem is obvious: who will start for the Hens when they begin a four-game series against Durham Thursday?
More on that in a moment. Nevin’s biggest problems in Tuesday’s loss were a defense that committed three errors, two of which resulted in runs, and an offense that failed to take advantage of 12 hits and seven walks.
“In a tight, one-run game, we uncharacteristically made some mistakes defensively that cost us,” Nevin admitted. “They executed better than we did. They made plays.”
Pawtucket scored a run in the third on a triple by Matt Sheely and a double by Ronald Bermudez, but Villareal pitched out of a two-on, no-out jam. In the sixth, an error by Toledo’s Argenis Diaz on a potential double-play grounder eventually led to a run on a sacrifice fly by Josh Reddick.
In the 10th inning Hens reliever Lester Oliveros gave up a double, single, and intentional walk to load the bases with none out. With the infield in close, Tony Thomas hit a grounder to third and Danny Worth threw home to force out the lead runner.
But a throw to first by catcher Omir Santos was too close to the runner and Ryan Strieby couldn’t catch it. Instead it rolled past him, allowing Reddick to score the game-winning run from second.
The Hens took an early lead with a run in the first off Pawtucket starter Andrew Miller, the former Detroit first-round draft pick. With two outs and none on Ben Guez drew a walk, and when Strieby’s double down the left-field line rolled under the ball boy’s chair, Guez sped around the bases and scored.
In the second inning Deik Scram hustled on a sinking liner to right and legged out a double, then came around to score on a two-out double by Will Rhymes.
But Toledo was just 2 for 9 when batting with runners in scoring position, and stranded a season-high 15 baserunners, including at least one in every inning except the fifth.
NOTES: Toledo will have Wednesday off before beginning a four-game series with Durham at Fifth Third Field Thursday starting at 10:30 a.m. ... Nevin said the Mud Hens’ rotation would include RHP Thad Weber Thursday, LHP Ramon Garcia on Friday, and LHP Duane Below on Saturday. Nevin said a determination on Sunday’s starter will be made Thursdayor Friday. Detroit manger Jim Leyland said Wilk probably will return to Toledo when Oliver is activated for Thursday’s game and could return to the rotation. ... To make room for Wilk on the Tigers’ 40-man roster, Hens reliever Robbie Weinhardt was designated for assignment.
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