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Published: Sunday, 5/20/2012

Worth back to being everyday shortstop

BY DAVID BRIGGS

Like most prospects who have experienced the joy and sorrow of the hop between Toledo and Detroit, Danny Worth will gladly fill whatever role is necessary to stick in the majors.

Utility man? Late-inning defensive replacement? No problem.

"Whatever they want," he said, "I'll be ready to do it."

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Worth finds a thin silver lining in his demotion to the Mud Hens this week. After receiving just 12 at-bats in two-plus weeks with the Tigers -- he had one hit -- Worth will face no such uncertainty in Toledo.

The Tigers' second-round draft pick in 2007, Worth is back as the Hens' everyday shortstop.

"It's easier to get in a rhythm when you're in there everyday," Worth said. "It's definitely harder playing once a week up there. But that just comes with the job."

The Tigers sent Worth down Wednesday after closer Jose Valverde strained his back. With Valverde day-to-day, Detroit needed an extra reliever and recalled right-hander Brayon Villareal. Tigers manager Jim Leyland called Worth a "victim of the situation."

"That's a move that we didn't want to make," Leyland said of Worth, who batted .176 over two brief stints with the Tigers this season. "But it's obviously a move attributed to the Valverde situation."

MEN IN BLUE: Former major league umpire Chuck Meriwether spent the week perched in the Fifth Third Field press box.

Meriwether, who retired in 2010 after calling big league games for 22 seasons, is in his second season as a minor league umpire supervisor. He rotates between the International League and the Pacific Coast League.

"I'm enjoying it," Meriwether said. "My body just started breaking down on me. The knees went, and it was just time for me to get out of [umpiring]. This kind of keeps me around the guys. That's what I really miss."

Friday night, he evaluated a crew that could taste the next level -- three members of the four-man crew were on the major league call-up list. For most of the men who put their lives on hold in pursuit of a dream, the ride will end in places like Toledo or Bowie, Md., (Double-A) or Burlington, Iowa (Class A). The men in blue fans see at Fifth Third Field are among the 235 umpires from rookie ball to Triple-A.

There are 68 full-time umpire positions in the majors, but there is little attrition. The greater turnover is in the minors, where about 35 umpires are released each season to make room for a new crop of replacements pumped into lower-level leagues.

Only those whom evaluators, like Meriwether, determine are the best of an elite group survive.

On the odds of earning a spot in the majors, Meriwether said, "It's almost like having a Supreme Court judge job. It can be tough.

WILD NIGHT: The Hens rewrote the record books Friday. Eric Patterson became the first Hens player to hit an inside-the-park homer since Andres Torres slugged one in the 2007 playoffs against Durham. And the Hens turned their first triple play since May 24, 2007.



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