Parrish pumped about Mud Hens’ pitching prospectsWritten by Jay Hathaway | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mud Hens’ all-time winningest skipper is ready to roll for another season of Toledo baseball.
Larry Parrish has returned for his third stint as manager of the Hens, replacing Phil Nevin.
The former All-Star major league player and International League Hall of Famer said the chance to come back was something he could not pass up.
“It was an opportunity presented by the club, and obviously Toledo’s a place I’m very familiar with — nice people, great surroundings,” Parrish said. “It’s a chance as a manager to try to help the guys make the next step, to make the major leagues.”
Parrish, who most recently managed the Single-A West Michigan Whitecaps, is eager to work with a promising group of young players this year, and said strength on the mound will be a highlight.
“It looks like our pitching should be very good,” Parrish said. “I think we’ve got a couple legitimate prospects that are going to be starting for us this year.”
He said Toledo’s current pitching depth provides an opportunity to see possible future stars in action.
“I don’t know if we’ve had that in a long time, where we had this many guys who have a chance to pitch in the big leagues as starters,” he said. “As an organization, we’re strong up and down, pitching-wise.”
He added that some of the pitching prospects brought up by the Detroit Tigers over the past decade — such as Jeremy Bonderman, Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander — often do not stay in the minor league system long.
“They were on the fast track [to the majors], so we didn’t get a chance to see them in Toledo,” he said.
Parrish said his pitchers this year will have some added help behind them in the form of good gloves.
“Defensively, I think we’re going to be a very good club,” he said.
On the offensive side, Parrish noted a lot of potential, but said hitting at the Triple-A level can be unpredictable.
“Offensively, it’s tough to say for the first part of the season, because we’re going to have a lot of first-year guys at this level,” he said. “Sometimes, though, you never know. Guys make big changes from one year to the next.”
Parrish said his roster this year could be unpredictable at times, as early, lengthy injuries to Tigers left-fielder Andy Dirks and shortstop José Iglesias have left the major league club with holes.
“Any time a guy goes down up there, it usually affects us,” he said.
When asked if he finds it frustrating to have to give up players that are going strong for Toledo, Parrish said that he understands the nature of his position.
“That’s just sort of our job,” he said. “Every organization is predicated on how well the major league club does. That’s really what’s it’s all about, getting guys to the major league club. If we’ve got a guy ready to go up and help, then we’ve done our job.”
In addition to working with the players, Parrish said he is also looking forward to working with hitting coach Leon “Bull” Durham, who has been with the Hens for 14 seasons.
“I love the fact that they’ve still got Bull there,” Parrish said. “I hate that he hasn’t gotten the opportunity to be a big league hitting coach yet, but I’m glad they still have him in Toledo with me.”
As for his return to the city itself, Parrish said Toledo has a lot to offer, and he especially enjoys working in the Fifth Third Field facilities.
“It’s got a great clubhouse and weight room for the players. The batting cage is right there by the clubhouse. The groundskeeper, Jake [Tyler], does a great job. It’s just a great place to be.
“It’s a very fan-friendly ballpark,” he added. “Even the people in the upper deck, you can almost have a conversation from the field. There’s really not a bad seat in the ballpark.”
Parrish said, in addition to the excellent fan base, the Downtown business community has also been very supportive.
“Since they put [the ballpark] in the Downtown area, so many places have sprung up.”
Toledo also has a lot to offer in terms of leisure, Parrish said.
“I’m an outdoorsman, so I love to play golf. There are some great golf courses in the area. Then you’ve got Cabela’s up [Route] 23, and Bass Pro Shops down I-75, so that’s great to have those places close by as well.”
Parrish led the Mud Hens to back-to-back International League championships in 2005 and 2006. He was named the International League Manager of the Year in 2005 and was inducted into the International League Hall of Fame last season.
During his playing career, the Florida native saw action in nearly 1,900 major league games. He retired from playing in 1990 and joined the Detroit Tigers organization as a full-time coach.
Mud Hens President and General Manager Joe Napoli said he is thrilled to have Parrish back.
“As a manager, he’s a great teacher and I know we’ll see improvement in player development,” Napoli said in a news release at the time of the announcement. “For our fans, he’s always been a favorite. They will be glad to welcome him back.”
Parrish and the Mud Hens open the season at home April 4 against the Louisville Bats.
Tags: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's, Detroit Tigers, groundskeeper, igers left-fielder Andy Dirks and shortstop José Iglesias, International League Hall of Fame, International League Manager of the Year, Jake Tyler, Jeremy Bonderman, Larry Parrish, Leon “Bull” Durham, Louisville Bats, manager, Mud Hens President and General Manager Joe Napoli, Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander, Single-A West Michigan Whitecaps