Nevin prioritizes prepping players for Major LeagueWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo Mud Hens will open their 2013 regular season with 15 returning players and a blend of major league experience and young prospects.
“We had a good spring,” said Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin. “A lot of tough decisions had to be made and when you’re putting a team together, that’s a good thing; we had to get rid of and send down some quality players and that means we should be all right.”
In his third year as Toledo’s skipper, Nevin said the main priority is developing his players “for the needs at the major league level.”
“Unfortunately, you go into a season and you’d love to say Detroit is only going to use their five starting pitchers and they’re going to make every start and no one’s going to get hurt and no one’s going to pull a hamstring or take a foul tip; but that just doesn’t happen,” he said. “Guys struggle, that’s just baseball, it happens. There’s moves to be made; our job is to have those players be ready to go to the major leagues and help out when those situations occur.”
Nevin said one of the best ways to prepare his players is by putting them in every possible game situation.
“Whether it’s a guy that never really bunts but hey, he goes to the big leagues and bats eighth and he might have to bunt; they’ll have to encounter at that level,” he said.
“It’s not always about a victory at that particular day, it’s about making those guys better to play at the major leagues.”
Although his main priority is to develop the players in the Tigers organization, Nevin said, “When we step between those lines at 7 o’clock at night, I want to win the baseball game.”
Although it is difficult to predict a minor league season, Nevin said his team’s defense is going to be a strong point. Twelve of Toledo’s 13 pitchers have experience playing AAA or in the major leagues, with seven of them a part of last year’s squad.
“Our defense is our strength and that really starts with our pitching,” Nevin said. “It’s a veteran staff for me who understands how to pitch and they’re going to be pretty excited about the defense playing behind them.”
Returning to the Mud Hens is catcher Bryan Holaday, who batted .240 with 25 RBIs with Toledo last season.
Quintin Berry, who was an impact player during the Detroit Tigers American League pennant run last season, will start in center field for the Mud Hens, who have missed the International League playoffs since 2007.
Berry batted .258 with the Tigers last season, knocking in 29 runs and stealing 21 bases.
One new face fans will recognize is Detroit Tigers top prospect Nick Castellanos. Castellanos, who was ranked No. 21 overall according to MLB.com, batted .360 with a home run and six RBIs with the Tigers during spring training down in Lakeland, Fla.
The 21-year-old prospect will play in left field despite starting his pro career at third base.
“He can really hit, he’s got a really good idea of how to hit,” Nevin said. “He’s new to playing left field still.”
Despite having a younger roster, Nevin said there will be some veterans and leaders, such as Holaday and first baseman John Lindsey.
“We have a very high-character clubhouse, which I like,” Nevin said. “I know they will kind of police themselves. They all play the game right, they play the game hard, they’re very professional guys and that’s nice to know going in because it makes my job a heck of a lot easier.”
Nevin said one the biggest impacts on the Tigers organization has been consistency in the minor league system. The different coordinators, such as the infield coordinator, hitting coordinator and minor league director, each have different responsibilities and Nevin said the consistency has allowed everyone to be “on the same page.”
“We’ve had a lot of turnover in our minor league system the last couple of years and to have some consistency from last year to this year I think is going to be beneficial to a lot of people, not just in the coaching personnel, but the players understand that as well,” he said. “Those people have all been consistent so that makes our jobs easier … you are on the same page.”