After using roughly the same lineup for its first three home games this season, the Toledo Mud Hens unveiled a different one for Monday’s game against Durham.
That’s not unusual for Triple-A baseball, where the focus is on having the entire roster sharp by getting as much game action as possible.
But the Mud Hens’ lineup against the Bulls, a contest that saw Toledo claim a 3-1 victory in a game shortened to seven innings by snow flurries, featured a twist. Pete Kozma, who had played shortstop in the three games of the Pawtucket series, moved to third base to replace Ronny Rodriguez, who stepped in for Kozma at shortstop.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens 3, Bulls 1
“We have directions from up above on where they want players to play and how much,” Mud Hens manager Doug Mientkiewicz said. “I really haven’t had much of a chance to move them [this season], so I’ll try to do that from series to series.”
Often players who are switching positions play at one spot one day, then bounce to a different spot the next, then they might return to that first spot the game after. That is something Mientkiewicz is trying to avoid.
“The idea is to have them at the same positions for the entire series,” he said. “I don’t like moving them every day. You want them to be comfortable.”
Both players have experience at a variety of positions. Last year, Rodriguez was voted to the International League’s post-season all-star team as a utility player after seeing time at all four infield positions as well as center field and right field in Columbus, while Kozma played all four infielder positions for Texas, adding time in left for the Rangers’ Triple-A team in Round Rock.
Mientkiewicz said he wants to give Rodriguez and Kozma reps in the outfield too.
“We are outfield-heavy right now, so getting time in the outfield is tough,” Mientkiewicz said. “In case someone goes down, they need to be ready.”
Rodriguez and Kozma played errorless baseball on a 36-degree night that saw a light snow begin falling in the early innings. The umpires initiated a weather delay during the seventh-inning stretch and called the contest after a 16-minute delay.
The Mud Hens claimed their third win in four games as three pitchers — starter Warwick Saupold and relievers Josh Turley and Zac Reininger — combined to hold Durham in check on four hits.
“It’s got to be tough for the pitchers to command the ball because they have no feeling for breaking pitches,” Mientkiewicz said. “I thought Saupold had good command of his pitches.
“With Turley and the knuckleball, you live and die with the conditions, but he danced out of trouble. And Reininger held a runner at third base.”
Saupold allowed just two hits in three scoreless innings before Turley allowed a run in the fourth. With two outs the knuckleball-throwing left-hander surrendered back-to-back walks to Brandon Snyder and Joe McCarthy, and Justin Williams made Turley pay by lining an RBI single to center.
Reininger also had a scare in the seventh when he surrendered a leadoff double to Jason Coats, who then took third on a flyout. But Reininger struck out the next two batters to strand Coats at third, and the umpires pulled the teams off the field soon after.
Meanwhile, the Hens’ offense continued their early season trend of scoring first-inning runs as Mikie Mahtook singled, then took third on a single by Mike Gerber before scoring on Dawel Lugo’s sacrifice fly. Gerber stole second, and walks to Chad Huffman and Edwin Espinal loaded the bases with two outs.
Christin Stewart then worked Bulls starter Anthony Banda for a walk that pushed Gerber home.
“Getting out to a lead in a ‘weather’ game is huge,” Mientkiewicz said. “You know the five-inning rule is coming, and you know that’s going to be a factor.”
Toledo added an insurance run in the third, when Espinal singled off the bag at third base, then scored from first on a double to deep center by Stewart.
NOTES: The Mud Hens announced a crowd of 2,926 for the contest. That marked the first time the team had an attendance under 3,000 since Fifth Third Field opened in 2002. … Lugo was 0-for-3 to end his nine-game hitting streak.
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