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Mientkiewicz finding ways to make roster changes work

  • SPT-Hens10p-37

    Like many triple-A manager, Toledo Mud Hens manager Doug Mientkiewicz, shown during a game against the Columbus Clippers this season, has had to deal with a revolving door of a roster.

    BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

  • SPT-Hens28-29

    Dawel Lugo's appearance in a May 3 game with Durham marks the only time the Mud Hens have used a pinch-hitter this season.

    Blade/Kurt Steiss

This is the first time Doug Mientkiewicz has dealt with the fluidity of a Triple-A team. With a quarter of the season down, he has dealt with both a thick and thin roster.

SPT-Hens10p-37

Like many triple-A manager, Toledo Mud Hens manager Doug Mientkiewicz, shown during a game against the Columbus Clippers this season, has had to deal with a revolving door of a roster.

BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

At the start of this season Mientkiewicz had trouble finding playing time for his entire Toledo Mud Hens roster, which was deep and productive. But in recent days, a revolving door has been used as the entrance to the Toledo clubhouse, and that, combined with injuries, has left the Hens with a short bench.

A perfect example took place Saturday, when the Hens lost two pitchers, including their scheduled starter, as the Detroit Tigers prepared for their doubleheader against Seattle; Toledo also placed first baseman Edwin Espinal on the disabled list.

“You find ways to make it work,” Mientkiewicz said earlier this week. “I grew up in the Tom Kelly-Ron Gardenhire days [with the Twins], and they try to use all 25 players on their roster. …

“It probably isn’t ideal, but you’ve got to find ways to keep everybody sharp so that, when they are put in the lineup, they aren’t rusty.”

It was all hands on deck when the Mud Hens hosted Columbus this past week. When Mikie Mahtook was promoted Wednesday to Detroit, Toledo had just three players on its bench: a backup catcher, newly promoted infielder Gabriel Quintana, and Chad Huffman, who was battling an injured wrist.

While Mientkiewicz acknowledged the obvious problem caused by a short bench is the inability to pinch-hit or pinch-run, he also said, “I don’t do a whole ton of that anyway.

“At this stage of the minor leagues, a guy who’s been at the plate three times already probably is more ready than a guy coming off the bench.”

Mientkiewicz also said he will shy away from pinch-runners or removing hitters in key situations to give players the chance to refine and improve their performance in those areas.

“We’re here to develop players, and in the process win games while we’re doing it,” he said. “There’s a standard every major-league player has to reach, and the reason a lot of talented players are in Triple-A is because they don’t reach those standards. …

“I’m talking about the little things. … And Triple-A is all about refining those little things.”

SPT-Hens28-29

Dawel Lugo's appearance in a May 3 game with Durham marks the only time the Mud Hens have used a pinch-hitter this season.

Blade/Kurt Steiss Enlarge

Through Toledo’s first 33 games, the Hens have used just two pinch-runners — and one of those came out of necessity when Espinal was hit in the face by a pitch and left Friday’s game at Louisville. The only pinch-hitter for the Hens came when Dawel Lugo was supposed to get a day off May 3 at Durham but instead pinch-hit.

“I wasn’t real happy with myself,” Mientkiewicz admitted. “I wanted to give him day off because before that he had played every inning in every game.

“And pinch-hitting is something he probably hasn’t done much of.”

THE WEEK AHEAD: After the Mud Hens finish their series Sunday in Louisville, they will have Monday off before returning to Fifth Third Field for a six-game homestand starting Tuesday.

Toledo will host Charlotte for three games, with Wednesday’s and Thursday’s contests the final two School Celebration Days starting at 10:35 a.m.

Then the Hens will host Gwinnett at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday before ending the homestand with a 2:05 game Sunday.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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