TigsTown MLN: The 'Hens 'Pen Shuffle

The Toledo Mud Hens saw their bullpen undergo a complete overhaul over the past week, as they lost a couple guys to the Tigers, added a couple new guys, and got some not-so-good news on yet another reliever. None of that seemed to affect the club though as they continued to roll atop the West division.

The 'Hens completed their week with a 5-2 record, helping boost their record up to 22-13, which is good for first place in the West division, as well as the best record in the entire International League. This really though is indicative of how well the offense has played, averaging nearly seven runs per game over the past seven games.

Of course, the bullpen shake up could have affected the ‘Hens, but luckily, it didn't. The Tigers brought up Chris Spurling to replace Troy Percival, and then brought up Doug Creek to replace Bobby Higginson; which wasn't exactly a normal switch, except Higginson had yet to get off the bench as of late, and the bullpen could use another left-hander in relief.

What did that mean for the bullpen? Well, at first, there was no replacement for Chris Spurling. Temporarily anyway, as after a few days, Toledo brought up Matt Roney from Erie, where he promptly jumped into the back end of the ‘pen. As for Creek's replacement, the Tigers granted the man his wish, promoting Mike Bynum back up from Erie to AAA Toledo, the place he wanted to be all along, and thought it to be a slap in the face (one worthy of demanding a release) after being moved back down to Erie after just a few days in Toledo back in April.

So that means it was an even 2-for-2 trade, and the one man many were hoping to see; Fernando Rodney; is still back in Extended Spring Training, and nowhere near AAA, a level he'll need to prove he can handle before getting back to Detroit.

What's the hold up? Well, Rodney was on track to have made his debut with Toledo (or wherever the Tigers would have him start his minor league rehab assignment) and had started pitching against live hitting more than two weeks ago. But a biceps strain appears to have side-tracked Rodney, and while there aren't any serious implications, Rodney needs to prove to be healthy before he can pitch competitively in the big leagues. While on April 1st Rodney didn't appear far away from Detroit, it now looks like July is a more realistic timeframe for the young righty.

Alexis Gomez continues his hot hitting for the Mud Hens, manning a corner outfield spot for ‘Hens as he works on a five game hitting streak, his longest of the season. That is also tied for the current team lead, along with Chris Shelton.

Speaking of Shelton, there are still quite a few critics (like Pat Caputo, who claimed Shelton wasn't even worthy of mention among the Top 20 prospects in the Tigers' organization), but according to one scout who saw him recently, those critics obviously haven't been paying much attention. Shelton leads the team in batting average and RBI, is second in home runs with seven, and leads the team in extra base hits with 17. So long as Shelton keeps from turning into a dead-pull hitter (which he has on occasion), there are nothing but bright things ahead for Shelton. What position exactly he'll be able to crack the lineup is an entirely different issue.

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