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The Mud Hens added a new second baseman to the roster Friday.
The hope is that soon Detroit will be able to insert that second baseman, Carlos Guillen, into its everyday lineup to help the Tigers push for a Central Division title.
Guillen, who was 1 for 4 in the Hens' 3-1 victory over Columbus at Fifth Third Field, is rehabbing from microfracture surgery on his left knee. While that injury that has kept him off the field since last August, Guillen said he is close to returning to the Tigers.
"I feel good -- really good," he said before the game. "I'm very excited to get back on the field and play some games.
"It was hard [to not play for so long]. It was a long recovery, and to not play every day was tough."
Guillen hopes to play second base for the Mud Hens on a daily basis as he prepares for the grind that awaits him the rest of this season. His rehab began four days ago in Hi-A Lakeland, where he went .200 with two RBIs; in his last game with the Flying Tigers, Guillen went 2 for 5 with a pair of doubles, and collected both of his RBIs.
"We've got to go step by step," Guillen said. "I think [coming back] after the all-star break is the goal. I need to get some at-bats -- I've gone nine or 10 months without facing a pitcher.
"The best way to help the Tigers is to be 100 percent mentally and physically. Game speed is a little bit different, but right now I feel great."
Guillen had a single in the Mud Hens' two-run rally in the sixth, pushing Will Rhymes into scoring position for a run-scoring single by Scott Thorman. Guillen moved to third on Thorman's hit and scored on a single by Jeff Salazar.
He also moved well to snag a groundout by the Clippers' Jared Goedert in the fifth and showed good movement overall.
"It's nice to see him moving around well," Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said of Guillen. "It's just timing and repetitions with him, getting that feel back. And then he'll be fine."
While Guillen is itching to return to the Tigers, he admitted that even playing minor-league games for the first time in 10 months has been rewarding.
"I've missed this -- a lot," Guillen admitted. "Sitting on the couch every day watching TV isn't easy.
"[The recovery process] has been tough, but I've got to keep my head up. I've been through this before, so I know to be patient. If you stay consistent with your rehab, you'll get good results."
The Mud Hens' sixth-inning rally broke up a scoreless pitchers duel between Zach McAllister of Columbus, who was selected to pitch in the Triple-A All-Star Game, and Toledo's Duane Below, who was not.
But Below got the better of the all-star, allowing just four hits in seven shutout innings to improve to 8-4 with a 3.18 ERA.
"I'm a little disappointed he didn't get picked to pitch in the All-Star Game," Nevin said of Below. "If you look at his numbers, they compare with the guys who are going, and that's a credit to him.
"For me, to come back [from his injury in 2009] and throw as well as he has -- throwing strikes, getting ahead of guys, pitching to contact, and keeping the team in the game -- is a credit to the way he has pitched this season."
Below said he tried not to think about pitching against an all-star in McAllister.
"I had to do my job before I could worry about what he was doing," Below said. "Our guys were able to get some runs on the board and give us the win."
Below allowed just one Clipper to reach second base until the seventh, when he ran into his toughest jam. A passed ball on a strikeout and a single put runners on first and second with one out, but Below escaped trouble by getting a pair of popouts.
"We had just scored two runs, so I told myself I needed to just keep doing what I was doing," Below said. "I knew I had to attack the strike zone, because some times I get away from that.
"I tried to get ahead of the hitters and force them to put the ball in play. And we got the job done."
Chance Ruffin, who joined the Mud Hens from Double-A Erie before the game, allowed just one unearned run in the final two innings to claim his first Triple-A save.
NOTES: Friday's win snapped a string of three straight losses and seven consecutive setbacks against Columbus. ... The game was played before a crowd of 9,024 for the Mud Hens' 10th sellout this season and fifth sellout in the last eight home games. ... Tigers pitcher Brad Thomas is expected to rejoin the Hens soon and continue his rehab from elbow trouble. Thomas was supposed to pitch in Columbus Tuesday but instead experienced discomfort and returned to Detroit. ... Outfielder Ben Guez was not in yesterday's lineup after leaving Thursday's game with shoulder troubles. Guez did enter the contest as a late-inning pinch runner and defensive replacement.
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