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Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Published: Friday, 4/4/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Mud Hens have high expectations

Parrish expecting big things from this season's Toledo team

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Parrish Parrish
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While persistent rain pelted Fifth Third Field on Thursday, the weather forecast for Toledo today is for the rain to eventually clear up.

And the forecast for this year’s Mud Hens, who open the 2014 season against Louisville starting at 4 p.m. today, also has a bright and sunny forecast.

“We like this club right now,” Toledo manager Larry Parrish said. “We’ve got a mixture of guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark and some speed.

“On the pitching side, we’ve got guys who are going to throw strikes and a couple of prospects, and we have some good arms in the bullpen.”

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RELATED LINK: Click here for The Blade's special preview section on the Mud Hens.

Thursday’s rain kept a tarp on the field and forced the Hens to do their work in the batting cages under the grandstand. But the rain and wind did little to dampen Parrish’s enthusiasm for the coming season, his ninth in Toledo but his first since 2010.

“Every club feels it can win at this time of year,” he said. “We don’t know how strong other teams are, but I like the looks of this team.

Mud Hens infielder Mike Hessman practices in an indoor batting cage. Mud Hens infielder Mike Hessman practices in an indoor batting cage.
BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

“Right now we’re solid up the middle. Three of the four outfielders can play center, and we’ve got strong guys in the middle of the infield, and both of our catchers can catch and throw.”

The rotation is set, with left-hander Kyle Lobstein getting the start today, followed by right-hander Drew VerHagen Saturday, southpaw Robbie Ray Sunday, right-hander Derek Hankins when Indianapolis starts a three-game set at Fifth Third Field Monday, and lefty Duane Below Tuesday.

“We have three lefties, so we tried to break them up,” Parrish said. “That lineup seemed like the best fit.”

Parrish said the bullpen is a work in progress, but right-hander Justin Miller will start the season as the team’s closer.

“It will iron itself out in a couple of weeks,” Parrish said of the bullpen roles. “But for now it’s like rolling dice up against the wall: You hope they don’t come up ‘snake eyes.’

“Miller has pitched well recently. But the roles could change in the next few weeks.”

The batting order for today’s game against Louisville will start with Ezequiel Carrera in right field, followed by Hernan Perez at shortstop, J.D. Martinez in left, Mike Hessman at third base, Ben Guez as the DH, Jordan Lennerton at first, James McCann as the catcher, Daniel Fields in center, and Danny Worth at second.

Kevin Burwell of Toledo Building Services inspects the seats ahead of today’s scheduled home opener at Fifth Third Field. Kevin Burwell of Toledo Building Services inspects the seats ahead of today’s scheduled home opener at Fifth Third Field.
BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

The key to this team’s success, Parrish said, is the speed with which first-year Triple-A players such as McCann, Fields, and others became accustomed to playing at Triple-A.

“When you have [first-year players], there’s going to be some highs and lows — it’s part of the game while they are adjusting to this level,” Parrish said. “How good we become is based on how well those guys make the adjustment.”

BELFIORE CLAIMED: Detroit claimed left-handed pitcher Mike Belfiore on waivers from Baltimore and assigned him to Toledo.

Belfiore spent last season with Triple-A Norfolk and was 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA, one save, and 82 strikeouts in 76 1/​3 innings.

The Mud Hens will need to take a pitcher off their roster to make room for Belfiore.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.



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