On the first day of summer, Danny Worth finished spring training.
Worth, who missed extended time early in the season, looked to be getting back into the swing of things Friday. He finished with three hits, scored twice, and drove in a pair of runs in the Mud Hens 8-5 victory over Pawtucket at Fifth Third Field.
“I think the time I missed was longer than the offseason I had,” Worth joked. “There was a lot of time off, a lot of time to think about the slow start I had, and think about the approach that I had.”
Worth played in 13 games to start the season and batted just .136 while striking out 14 times in 44 at-bats before suffering a heel injury.
“Those first few games I think I went outside my game a little bit,” Worth admitted. “So I changed a few things with my mechanics.”
Worth went on the disabled list April 20, and he didn’t return until June 14. In the first eight games since his return, the versatile 27-year-old infielder has hit .379 and struck out only six times in 29 at-bats.
“He did go down to Florida to get some work in, but when you miss a month it’s like starting over again,” Toledo manager Phil Nevin said. “There are some things that are ‘feel’ things that are still coming to him.”
Worth and the Mud Hens struggled against Pawtucket starter Steven Wright, a knuckleballer.
But in the fourth Worth’s triple ignited a two-run rally, and his RBI single coupled with a two-out, two-run double by Danny Dorn were the key hits in a three-run fifth.
“Knuckleballers can be tough, and that’s something some of these guys have never seen,” Nevin said. “I thought we took some quality at-bats, especially the second time through the order.”
Hens starter Derek Hankins posted his eighth quality start in 11 starts, giving up unearned runs in the first and fourth as well as a home run to Xander Bogaerts in the sixth.
While Hankins gave up eight hits, he also didn’t walk any batters and the Red Sox went 2-for-10 against him with runners in scoring position.
“He gives us a chance to win every time out,” Nevin said of Hankins. “He got through six innings and only gave up three runs, and only one was earned.”
In the eighth inning the Mud Hens scored three insurance runs. Ben Guez tripled, then scored on a single by Ramon Garcia, but the next two batters were retired by Pawtucket reliever Ryan Rowland-Smith.
Kevin Russo lifted a fly ball to right that seemed to be the third out, but Jeremy Hazelbaker dropped it for an error that scored Cabrera from first and allowed Russo to reach second. When Worth followed with an infield hit, Russo never stopped running and scored from second.
“There has never been a issue on this team with guys running hard,” Nevin said. “These guys have played hard all year.
“We’ve gotten rid of some of the guys who don’t. These guys play hard.”
Even though Bruce Rondon gave up a two-run homer in the ninth to Pawtucket’s Dan Butler, the Hens snapped a three-game losing streak. The win made Toledo 14-6 in June, doubling the team’s win total from a 7-20 April.
“It’s been a total 180,” Worth said. “In April we were losing, and it wasn’t any fun.
“When I came back, it was totally different. There were a lot of positive attitudes around the clubhouse, including the manager. Now it’s fun baseball, and we want to win some games for him.”
Worth also said the Hens weren’t dismayed by their three-game losing streak.
“I don’t think we played the previous three games that we lost,” he said. “We were playing good ball, and we still felt we had some momentum.
“We weren’t hanging our heads or anything.”
NOTES: Before the game the parent Tigers called up OF Avisail Garcia and RHP Al Alburquerque from Toledo. … After the game the Mud Hens announced that LHP Kyle Lobstein and RHP Justin Souza will join the team from Double-A Erie. Lobstein, who will take the place of Robbie Weinhardt in the rotation starting next Thursday, was 6-4 with a 3.19 ERA, while Souza was 4-1 with 14 saves and a 2.93 ERA. … IF Argenis Diaz was in Friday’s original lineup but was scratched because of illness. He is not expected to miss extended time. … Friday’s crowd of 10,750 was the Mud Hens’ 10th sellout this season and the 337th in Fifth Third Field history.