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Published: Thursday, 5/29/2014

Ex-Tigers prospect leads Bulls past Hens

Casali doubles twice, hits 1st Triple-A homer

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Both Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland returned to Fifth Third Field on Wednesday morning to watch the Mud Hens play.

They also were able to watch Durham’s Curt Casali, a former Detroit Tigers minor league catcher who starred in the Bulls‘ 7-0 victory.

The 25-year-old catcher collected two doubles and his first Triple-A home run while helping Durham starter Matt Andriese and two relievers combine for a three-hit shutout.

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“There’s no revenge [involved],” Casali said. “I played with a few of these [Toledo] guys — Tyler Collins, Wade Gaynor, James McCann — and it’s fun to get to see them again and compete against them.”

Casali originally was drafted by Detroit in 2011, but was traded to Tampa Bay for current Mud Hen Kyle Lobstein before the 2013 season.

He began this year with the Rays’ Double-A team in Montgomery, Ala., and hit .314 with a homer and 13 RBIs to earn a May 5 promotion to the Bulls.

“[Tampa Bay] has given me a chance to play,” Casali said. “I’m just trying to prove to them I can play, just like I was trying to do in the Tigers organization.”

He doubled to set up a run for the Bulls in the second, then doubled off the left-field wall in the sixth. In the seventh, he hammered a home run off the left-field scoreboard.

“He’s a great kid, and he’s a leader,” Durham manager Charlie Montoyo said. “We knew he could hit, and we want to see if can play behind the plate. So far he has done that well.”

He meshed well with Andriese. The righty allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out six in seven shutout innings.

“Matt and I have worked on the two-seamer in the last two starts, sinking it in on right-handers,” Casali said. “They have to adjust and open up, and when they do that’s when we can flip a little outside slider on them.

“[Andriese] has done a great job of getting early contact, letting his defense work and pitching deep into a game.”

Andriese retired the last seven Hens he faced, and Durham relievers Adam Liberatore and Jake Thompson each pitched a 1-2-3 inning, which means the final 13 Toledo batters were retired in order.

“In these [morning] games, I think the team that gets an early lead usually wins because it’s tough to come back,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. “This is a game where it’s tougher to grind because you’re tired.”

Toledo starter Derek Hankins, who came into the game having allowed 18 earned runs in the first inning and 17 earned runs in the innings that followed, saw his first-inning struggles continue as he allowed two runs in the first.

He also surrendered a run in the second and two more in the fifth, although just three of the five runs were earned.

“He’s got to be point-blank [perfect with his command] the whole game,” Parrish said. “If he elevates a pitch, they hit it. Teams don’t seem to swing-and-miss against him.”

It also was a long day for Mud Hens catcher Luis Exposito, who made three errors. He threw wildly to third base on a stolen-base attempt to allow a run to score in the first, then made a poor throw back to Hankins in the fifth that allowed another Durham runner to race home from third.

He also dropped a foul popup behind home plate.

“Sometimes that’s how the game goes — the ball seems to find you [when you are struggling],” Parrish said. “And it didn’t leave him alone.”

NOTES: Toledo SS Eugenio Suarez singled in the first inning and now has at least one hit in all seven games with the Hens. … Tyler Collins was hitless in four at-bats to snap a six-game hitting streak. … Toledo was 1-2 in School Celebration Days this year. The team has a 25-20 all-time record in the morning contests but has won just two of its last 12.

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



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