MLN: Hessman Making History

History. It's the least favorite class of most school children and what the Toledo Mud Hens' 3B Mike Hessman just made when he became Toledo's modern-era RBI leader on Sunday, April 20.

Mike Hessssss'man (as he is referred to when coming up to bat) is now the Mud Hens all-time leader in RBI (239) and HR's (89) When you combine that with a 2007 IL MVP Award, it becomes obvious that there isn't much left for him to prove in the minors. When asked about it he humbly responded, "There's always something to keep working on, I am always trying to improve." In Hessman-fashion he did hold true to his word by hitting his league leading sixth HR later that evening.

Mike Hessman started off the year a bit slow hitting two homeruns over the first sixteen games but picked up the pace by hitting three homeruns in five at bats on Sunday, April 20 in route to setting the RBI record. He became only the third player to hit three home runs in a game in Fifth Third Field's history.

While his power numbers definitely speak for themselves Hessman has struggled with strikeouts over the past few seasons. Last year he led the IL in strikeouts with 153 in 422 at-bats (36%) and was sixth in 2006 (129 SO in 345 AB) and third in 2005 (154 SO in 473 AB). When asked about his strikeout totals he admits he has and needs to continue working on keeping the strikeout total down but also says "That's how I play, I can change the game with one swing of the bat."

Indeed he can.

Aside from the strikeouts another thing holding Hessman back from starting for the Tigers is the depth of the infield. With the addition of 3B/1B Miguel Cabrera who recently signed an eight-year $152+ contract and last years starting third basemen, Brandon Inge on the team, Hessman is pressed to find time at other positions if he hopes to make it the majors with the Tigers Organization.

When asked what he thought of the Tigers acquiring Cabrera and how it hurt/helped his future Hessman grinned and said, "I am working on things I have control of and letting the front office take care of that stuff." He spent a large part of spring training playing 1B and has played in the OF in previous seasons.

The Mud Hens took the final three games against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs last week but lost both in a two game series vs. the division leading Louisville Bats. The Mud Hens also lost the following night to the Columbus Clippers marking the first time this season they lost three in a row. Fortunately the Mud Hens did take the next two and now lead the four game series vs. the Clippers 2-1. As of Wednesday April 23, the Mud Hens are 11-8 and 1½ games out of first place ranking third in the division.

As a team the Mud Hens continue to produce strong offensive numbers this season, leading the league in Doubles, HR, RBI, TB, SLG and OPS. Pitching has also been solid with a team 3.85 ERA. The Mud Hens currently have two pitchers with three wins (Jeremy Johnson and Eddie Bonine). Relief pitchers on the Mud Hens lead the league with holds (12); lead by Preston Larrison who has five. Closer Blaine Neal has been stellar thus far converting six saves in six chances while striking out 13 in 8 IP and allowing no runs.

Relief pitcher Francisco Cruceta made his Mud Hens debut on Tuesday night's game vs. the Columbus Clippers. Coming in to relieve starter Jeremy Johnson, Cruceta pitched three scoreless innings striking out six (five of his first seven) of the eleven batters he faced. He also walked a batter and hit the next but was able to strike out Larry Broadway to end the inning with runners in scoring position. Cruceta finished with 41 pitches and had his sinking fastball reaching 95 mph. Mud Hens Manager Larry Parrish said Cruceta was even tipping his pitches and believes it will only be a few weeks before the Tigers call him up. When asked if he felt ready for the majors Cruceta responded "yes, when they want me to go I will go."

News and Notes:

Right-hander Virgil Vasquez has hit the Toeldo DL with shoulder tendinitis. The problem is not considered serious, and Manager Larry Parrish indicated to the Toledo Blade that he could only miss one start. Replacing Vasquez in the rotation will be recently demoted right-hander Yorman Bazardo, who will be looking to get things back on track after a rough spring and first few weeks of the season.

Some additional roster moves include Caonabo Cosme heading down to Double-A Erie. Cosme had been hitting well with a nice average and two home runs in limited time, but with the arrival of Michael Hollimon, at-bats will be at a premium. Infielder Nick McIntyre was released from the Erie roster to make room for Cosme.

Rounding out today's moves, pitchers Juan Cedeno and Freddi Dolsi have switched places, with Dolsi heading to Erie and Cedeno heading to High-A Lakeland. Dolsi impressed with his arm strength in spring training, and was given a taste of Double-A ball last fall with one regular season appearance for the Seawolves.

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