Toledo Mud Hens baseball started again as the team hosted the Louisville Bats in an Opening Day slugfest. The lineup was full of players who spent time with the Detroit Tigers as well as young guys new to Triple-A ball. The players meshed well and gave Toledo its first win of the 2015 season.
Toledo Mud Hens, the Tigers Triple-A affiliate, kicked off their season at home Thursday afternoon. On the Tigers’ first off-day after defeating the Marlins in the two-game series, baseball fans could catch the first Mud Hens game of the year.
If you have never watched the Mud Hens, this year is a good one to starting paying attention. The team is no longer the bottom feeders they once were; in fact, the Mud Hens could be quite good this year.
This year’s Opening Day roster features 7 players who were on the Tigers 40-man roster. The team features a handful of players with big league experience. Several of these players could show up in Detroit, if (God-forbid) any Tigers suffer from injuries.
Another reason to watch is the Mud Hen’s manager.
Lloyd McClendon suited up for his first game as Mud Hens manager Thursday as well. The former Tigers hitting coach and Seattle Mariners manager was hired by the club last November after longtime manager Larry Parrish hung it up. Many fans feel McClendon could be the next Tigers manager – even as early as in the middle of this season – should Brad Ausmus fail out of the gates.
The Hens teed off on Bats starter A.J. Morris who was chased after just two innings of work. The team strung together four extra base hits in this one including doubles from longtime Chicago Cubs outfielder Nate Schierholtz and longtime Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers catcher Bobby Wilson who was acquired in the Bryan Holaday trade.
However, the biggest story line was Steven Moya, who crushed two home runs, including an opposite-field homer in the fourth inning. Interestingly enough, Moya’s multiple home runs for Toledo was reminiscent of current Detroit Tigers slugger J.D. Martinez who homered four times in a double-header for the Mud Hens during his short time there prior to being called up to Detroit in 2014.
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Matt Boyd started this game for the Mud Hens. Acquired in the David Price deal last July, Boyd was serviceable in the Major Leagues but could not win the fifth starters spot for Detroit. Thursday against Louisville, Boyd looked confident – but not dominant – striking out seven batters and allowing two runs through six innings of work.
After throwing only 87 pitches, 70% of which were strikes, Boyd turned the game over to the bullpen which fared much better than the Tigers bullpen did in their season opener in Miami. Preston Guilmet, Dustin Molleken and Jose Valdez closed out the game only allowing two hits total.
Even in the minor leagues it is important to not get enamored by sample sizes. Even with his small sample size, Boyd does look like he could be the Tigers’ sixth starter after getting the Opening Day start in Toledo and notching an impressive victory.
As for the case of Steven Moya, his long swing provided for a ton of strikeouts and a lot of power, two things that are not scarce in the Tigers current lineup. While opening the season with two homers is nice, track records show Moya will need to cut down the strikeouts and consistently hit for power should he want to make a trip to Detroit before September. With other sluggers such as Casey McGehee and Jordany Valdespin in Toledo, Moya will now be challenged based on organizational depth.
It is shaping out to be a fun year in Toledo.