Many familiar faces will return in what should be another exciting summer of Toledo Mud Hens baseball. The Hens are coming off their 4th straight winning season, the longest streak in Mud Hen History since 1941-1944. They are 533-470 since moving to Fifth Third Field.
The core players on the Hens parent club, the Detroit Tigers, have stayed the same, so the Hens will once again be stocked with talent when the Hens open at home Thursday.
Starting pitching will be the key to the season. The Hens have a new crop of hurlers and will need some guys to step up.
Chris Lambert, 26, will anchor the rotation following a 12-8 record for Toledo in 2008. Lambert joined the Hens from St. Louis in the 2007 deal for LHP Mike Maroth.
Ron Chiavacci, 31, returns after spending last season with the Phillies and Astros Triple-A clubs. Chiavacci went 12-6 for the 2007 Mud Hens and finished 4th in the league that season with 126 strikeouts.
Ruddy Lugo, 28, was 7-12 with a 5.36 ERA at Triple-A New Orleans. He is the younger brother of SS Julio Lugo, who plays for the Red Sox.
The Hens will count on a couple of young hurlers who haven’t pitched above Double-A. Scot Drucker, 26, went 8-3 last year for Grand Prairie in the American Association and pitched briefly at Double-A Erie. LHP Lucas French, 23, was 9-11, 4.02 ERA at Double-A Erie and was drafted in the 8th round of the 2004 draft.
The bullpen should be strong. RHP Freddy Dolsi climbed quickly through the organization in 2007, pitching with four different clubs. In 2008, the 26-year-old appeared in 42 games with Detroit and had a 3.97 ERA.
RHP Casey Fien, 26, made his Triple-A debut last year and was 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA. Fien was very impressive in spring training with the Tigers and may end up in Detroit by the end of the season.
LHP Fu-Te Ni, 26, was signed out of the China Professional Baseball League. He had 257 strikeouts in two seasons with the China Trust Whales.
LHP Clay Rapada, 28, 2.31 ERA, will return for his 3rd season with the Hens. He was acquired from the Cubs in exchange for OF Craig Monroe in 2007. Rapada pitched in 25 games with Detroit in 2008.
Nick Regilio signed as a free agent after going 4-4 and a 3.00 ERA for Triple-A Round Rock. Regilio pitched in 24 games for the Texas Rangers in 2004 & 2005.
RHP Matt Rusch returns to Toledo after going 3-0 with a 4.24 ERA in 2008.
Scott Williamson, 33, will begin the year in Toledo. The veteran was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1999 with the Cincinnati Reds and pitched with Tacoma and Richmond last season.
The Hens offense is stacked. The outfield will feature Clete Thomas, Brett Clevlen, and Ryan Raburn, who have all been top prospects in the Tigers farm system and spent time with Detroit. They will have big hitters on the corners with Mike Hessman and Ryan Roberson to go along with big powerful, 6’4, catching prospect Dusty Ryan.
Ryan, 24, will start the year as the number one backstop after moving quickly through the organization in 2008. Ryan made his major league debut and hit a combined 19 HR in three stops (most of the games with Erie). Ryan is the 9th best Detroit prospect according to Baseball America.
Dane Sardinha, 29, will return to the Glass City for his 3rd season. The native of Hawaii played in 17 games with Detroit last year.
SS Brent Dlugach, hampered by right shoulder surgery in 2008, looks to rebound.
3B Mike Hessman returns for his 5th season. The all-time HR King of Toledo with 117, Hessman has also appeared with Detroit over the past 2 years. He was named IL NVP in 2007 and helped lead the team to championships in 2005 & 2006.
SS Don Kelly (29) makes his return to Toledo after spending the 2008 season with Triple-A Tucson. Kelly played in 109 games with the Hens in 2005 & 2006.
2B William Rhymes (26) appeared in six games with Toledo, after hitting .306 in 131 games at Double-A Erie. He saw extensive action is spring training with the Tigers and impressed manager Jim Leyland.
First basemen Ryan Roberson, 25, played in seven games for Toledo and hit 25 HR with Double-A Erie in 2008.
2B/SS Danny Worth (23) was selected by Detroit in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft. Worth hit .254 with 5 HR and 33 RBI at Erie in his 2nd pro season.
OF Brent Clevlen, 25, cleared waivers and will start the year in Toledo. He had a breakout season with the Hens in 2008 with 23 doubles, 22 HR, and a team-leading 82 RBI. He was a league All-Star and also played in 11 games with Detroit. Clevlen was selected in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft by the Tigers.
Ryan Raburn, 27, is a very familiar name to Hens’ fans. He played all season with Toledo in both of the Governors’ Cup seasons of 2005 & 2006 and has connected on 58 HR in 338 total games with Toledo in parts of four seasons.
Wilkin Ramirez, 23, finished 7th in the Eastern League with a .303 batting average. He earned a promotion to Toledo and played in 11 games with the Hens. Ramirez is the 6th best Detroit prospect according to Baseball America.
Clete Thomas, 25, hit .247 with 9 HR, 45 RBI and 29 SB at Toledo and also made his big league debut with 40 games logged in Detroit.