While Mitch Maier had never played a game either for or against the Mud Hen, he was not a stranger to Fifth Third Field.
Maier, who spent the last four days at the ballpark with Pawtucket, is a former University of Toledo standout who played his final game as a Rocket at Fifth Third Field. He said he didn’t remember much of that game — which probably is good, since UT lost to its archrivals, Bowling Green, by a 14-4 count on May 18, 2003.
Of course, the Maier of today is very different from the player who went 3-for-5 against the Falcons that day.
“I’m married, I have kids — a lot has changed,” Maier said. “I’ve been playing baseball for the last 10 years. … I’ve had a chance to play in the major leagues with Kansas City.
"But it’s been a fun trip.”
Maier was a three-time All-Mid-American Conference catcher for Toledo from 2001-03. After his junior year he was a first-round pick in the ’03 draft by Kansas City. He played in all or part of six seasons with the Royals before signing with Boston in the off-season.
He has hit .296 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 26 games for Pawtucket, and Red Sox manager Gary DiSarcina said Maier’s value to the team goes beyond statistics.
“Guys like Mitch bring stability not only to the lineup, but also to the clubhouse,” DiSarcina said. “It’s an everyday game, and some of the younger guys are starting to realize that at this level it’s more of a mental grind.
“It’s great for [prospects] like Jackie Bradley, Jr., Bryce Brentz, and Xander Bogaerts to watch him and see how he goes about his business.
“What I like is that there’s no ‘panic’ in his game. He comes to the ballpark and prepares every day. There’s no throwing helmets or getting upset if he makes an out. It’s great for our younger guys to see.”
Maier, who did not play in Pawtucket’s 5-4 win over the Mud Hens on Monday, said he enjoyed his return to Fifth Third Field.
“It’s nice to be close to home,” said Maier, who now lives in South Lyon, Mich. “My family and in-laws could come down to see me, and it was nice to be back.”
AVILA UPDATE: Alex Avila continued his rehab assignment with the Mud Hens Monday, going hitless in five at-bats.
Avila, batting second and serving as DH for the Hens, struck out in the first, flew out to center in the third, then grounded out in the fifth. He took a called third strike in the seventh before finishing the day with a hard line drive that was caught by Bradley in center.
“I thought he put a good swing on a good fastball,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said of Avila’s last at-bat. “For him, it’s more about repetition and getting his stroke back. … I thought he took some good swings.”
Avila reported no pain following the game. He will travel with the team to Pawtucket and, barring setbacks, is expected to remain with Toledo until July 2. On that day the 26-year-old catcher, who went on the disabled list June 17 with a deep contusion of his left forearm, will be able to rejoin the Tigers.
NOTES: Argenis Diaz singled in the third to extend his current hitting streak to 14 consecutive games, the second-longest on the team this season. … Monday’s crowd of 9,587 was the team’s fourth sellout in as many days and 13th in 39 home games this year.