Toledo MLN: Call-Ups Abound in Toledo

Throughout 440 games in his professional baseball career, Brent Dlugach had not played at any other position but shortstop. That all changed Saturday when the recently called up infielder found out he was penciled in at third base for that night's match up against the Indianapolis Indians.

"Well I was approached about it a few days ago, and he thought it would help me in the long run," Dlugach said. "It still came as a surprise when I saw my name with third base next to it."

The move was one in a series of defensive shake ups that had been happening throughout the Hens most recent home stand. Wilkin Ramirez started in centerfield for the first time this season last Thursday and again on Saturday, after starting every other game in left field during his career. The moves were all made with a greater purpose in mind.

"The reason for of all of the defensive moves is to prepare the guys for possible call ups in September," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "We want those guys to have played some of those positions and not be out of sorts in those positions if and when they get called up."

Even the Mud Hens resident defensive specialist, Don Kelly, was bit surprised when he saw Sunday's line up card. Kelly was penciled in at shortstop for the first time this season. His start at short meant that Kelly had made a start at every position except pitcher and catcher this season.

"It's all about preparation for me. You just have to go out and put your time in preparing to play anywhere. I make sure I am taking infield and shagging balls in the outfield during batting practice everyday," Kelly said.

The bulk of Kelly's starts have come in centerfield this season but his versatility defensively has made him a crucial asset for the Hens this season.

"I feel if I can play several spots in the field it makes it hard for them to keep me out of the lineup," Kelly said.

Hens Hardware

It has been a pretty good week for Brent Dlugach, and on Tuesday, the week got a bit better. Dlugach and teammate Don Kelly were named to the International League's postseason all star squad.

Dlugach was chosen as the best shortstop in the IL, and Kelly was selected as the utility player. The team is chosen by the IL's managers, coaches, media, and front offices. Before his call up, Dlugach was hitting .294 with nine home runs and 59 RBI. The numbers were career bests for the new Tiger.

"The main thing with me is staying disciplined at the plate. I have worked real hard on focusing on keeping it simple at the plate and just staying consistent with my approach," Dlugach said.

Kelly has had a career year at the plate as well. The 29 year old is currently third in batting average in the IL, carrying a .330 average into Tuesday's game in Indianapolis. Kelly was only five points behind league leader Kevin Russo of Scranton, and even though the Hens are out of a playoff chase, the Butler, PA native finds himself within striking distance of a batting title.

"It's all about trying to compete at the highest level you are capable of. It's all about trying to stay focused on the things you need to do at the plate. That's what I have tried to do all season," Kelly said. "The batting title will take care of itself as long as I continue to do the things I need to while at bat."

Kelly has only hit above .300 for a season two other times in his career, but both times he did not qualify for a batting title due to a lack of plate appearances.

"He has had a great year for us," Parrish said. "He has really had command of his swing all year and has made himself into a really dangerous hitter when he is at the plate."

Willis Struggles

Sunday was supposed to be a defining day for Dontrelle Willis. The embattled southpaw, who saw his last rehab start against the Columbus Clippers cut short due to an ailing hip, was hoping to get back on the right track. Unfortunately for Willis, things did not go according to plan.

Willis, who has been on the DL since June with an anxiety disorder, allowed the first five batters he faced to reach base which resulted in two runs. Then after a double play, a single up the middle plated two more runners, and Willis and the Hens found themselves in a 4-0 hole.

"I was just hoping to go out there and just battle," Willis said. "It's been a long time coming for me."

Willis appeared to tweak his hip again in the first, but the left hander continued to try and battle through.

"I re-aggravated it on the first pitch, but I knew the team is short on pitching so I just wanted to kind of battle through it. I was just going to stay out there as long as I could," Willis said.

After the first, Willis seemed to settle down shutting out the Indians over the next three innings. But after he loaded the bases by walking the first three batters he faced in the fifth inning, Willis was headed to the showers.

"Today I was just trying to go out there and compete to the best of my ability. I wanted to go out there as long as I could. I did not get the best results but I feel like I did some good things tonight," Willis said.

Willis threw a total of 99 pitched through four innings and only 44 were thrown for strikes. Willis's lack of command resulted in eight walks, which is a record for most walks allowed by a pitcher at Fifth Third Field.

"I tried to keep attacking and I felt like I settled down a little bit once I changed my mechanics up in the second inning. I just have got to get healthy, but that is no excuse. I don't expect anyone to feel sorry for me. It just is what it is," Willis said.

It is not yet known what is next for the former NL Rookie of the Year. It has not been announced yet when or if Willis will make one more start for the Hens this season.

Family Reunion

The most recent home stand was a family affair for two Mud Hens. Outfielders Jeff Frazier and Don Kelly each welcomed family members to Fifth Third Field during the past week.

Frazier's younger brother, Todd, was called up just in time when the Louisville Bats arrived in town for a four game series on August 23rd. It was the younger Frazier's first stint in Triple-A.

"It was great having him here," the older Frazier said. "We don't normally get to see each other for about seven months out of the year because he is always playing in one place and I am in another."

Frazier welcomed his little brother by suggesting him to be the Toft's Ice Cream Strikeout Player of the Game, a promotion that encourages fans to cheer for a player to strike out in hopes of receiving free ice cream.

"My wife said that I needed to do something to get Todd going since he just was called up," Frazier said with a smile. "I thought it was a nice way to get him going,"

When Frazier hit a RBI double in the first game against Louisville, he could not help but take a glance out into right field.

"It was crazy when I hit that double. I was just looking out at him and he was laughing and so was I. It was just cool to be playing on the same field with him," Frazier said.

Don Kelly's brother-in-law, Indianapolis Indians third baseman Neil Walker, came to town in the next series. Kelly welcomed Walker to town in a similar fashion.

"I couldn't let that go," Kelly said, chuckling. "I had to give him the royal treatment and make him the strike out player too."

Kelly echoed the sentiments of his Hens teammate, when it came to playing against a family member.

"It's great going out there and competing against him. Getting to play with him two years ago in Indianapolis and getting to play against him here has been fun for me," Kelly said.

Hens News and Notes

- Catcher Dane Sardinha pitched a scoreless inning of relief in Toledo's 12-0 loss on Sunday against Indianapolis. Sardinha threw 12 pitches in the inning and nine were strikes.

"I was just nervous while I was warming up that I was going to hit the third base coach with a wild pitch," Sardinha said.

- While there has been a slight improvement, the Mud Hens continue to struggle at the plate with runners in scoring position. The Hens raised their RISP average from .222 to .236, but the team still ranks fourth worst in all of minor league baseball in the category.

- The 2009 Toledo Mud Hens are on pace to break the team record for most strikeouts in a season. The previous record was set last season with 1,206 K. Right now the team is on pace to strikeout 1,212 times for the year. Only one other team has struck out more times than Toledo this season in all of minor league baseball. The Class A Inland Empire 66ers have struck out a total of 1,179 times this season.

- Armando Galarraga is scheduled to make a rehab start in the 2009 home finale for the Hens. The right-hander was scratched from his last start with Detroit due to inflammation in his elbow. Galarraga is likely to be recalled by the Tigers following his appearance.

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