Parrish returns from 2007 ankle surgeryWritten by Norm Wamer | | email@example.com
LAKELAND, Fla. — Last season was the first in three years that the Toledo Mud Hens did not win the International League championship, and a key injury may have been the difference. Ironically, it wasn’t an injury to a player, but an injury to their manager, Larry Parrish.
Parrish, a former two-time major league all-star who was a feared slugger for the Montreal Expos and the Texas Rangers, has won four minor league championships as a manager, including titles in 2005 and 2006 with the Mud Hens. Last season though, Parrish spent the season on the “disabled list” after undergoing surgery to reconstruct his ankle.
“It was a deal where it just sorta wore out,” the Mud Hens skipper said. “They had to put a pin in there and fuse the ankle bone. It was a long time in a cast, about three months. It took a while, even after I got out [of the cast], to get it working right again. Probably about November it quit swelling and right now everything is great. I’m having no problems at all throwing BP (batting practice), swinging, hitting ground balls or anything.
“I probably feel as good as I have in 20 years.”
Parrish is feeling so good that he has participated in hitting contests in the batting cages with the likes of Detroit Tigers greats Al Kaline and Willie Horton.
“We still like to swing,” Parrish said. “It just doesn’t go as far when you hit it now.”
Even though Parrish was frustrated by not being able to manage last year, it didn’t mean he just sat at home.
“Any time you are injured like that, even as a player, you’re almost on the outside looking in,” Parrish said. “The second half I did go around and see some of the minor league guys the other teams play, so I do have a bit of a feel of some of the guys coming up from Erie because I did get a chance to see them last year, which in the past you were never able to do that.”
Mud Hens fans will see some new Tigers prospects along with the returning manager.
“We’re gonna have some young guys [in Toledo], [Jeff] Larish, probably Clete Thomas, guys making the jump from Double-A,” Parrish said. “[Mike] Holliman hurt his shoulder, so he may be delayed a few weeks. We are going to have some returnees — Timo Perez and Brent Clevlen being there in the outfield. The power could be from that area.”
The Toledo manager is counting more so on having a veteran pitching staff.
“Pitching-wise, we’re probably undecided on maybe one guy as far as starters are concerned,” Parrish said. “We’re going to have Chris Lambert, Virgil Vasquez, Macay McBride and Armando Galarraga for sure.
“In the bullpen, there are still some guys that are going to shake down from the big league club. It looks like our bullpen could be strong; we should have some pretty good arms out there.”
Handling that pitching staff will be a guy familiar to Toledo in A.J. Sager, but also a guy the Mud Hens leader managed in Detroit in 1998.
“I’m very familiar with A.J.,” Parrish said with a smile. “It’s a little bit easier because you know what kind of a guy A.J. is. He’s much like [former Toledo pitching coach and current Detroit bullpen coach] Jeff Jones, who was here in the past. He has the ability to communicate well with the pitchers and get his point across. I’m looking forward to working with A.J.”
Mud Hens fans are looking forward to having their title-winning manager back in the saddle again.
Norm Wamer is program director of Sports Radio 1470 “The Ticket” WLQR-AM and co-hosts “The Front Row” weekday afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m.