ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- If Rochester is going to win the Governors' Cup over the next five days it will do so with an infusion of youth in its starting rotation.
Red Wings manager Stan Cliburn bumped veterans Dave Gassner and Pete Munro from the rotation in Games 2 and 3 in favor of Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins. Slowey, a right-hander who spent part of his childhood in suburban Rochester, was the Twins' second-round pick in 2005 and is in the midst of a brilliant season. The left-handed Perkins, meanwhile, was the club's top pick in 2004 and pitched six near-perfect innings in the semi-final clincher over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
While the moves might raise some eyebrows in the veteran-laden Rochester clubhouse, Cliburn had a simple explanation as to why they were made.
"Any time you get into the postseason you want to win, but we still have to keep player development in the forefront," Cliburn said. "Playoff experience at the highest Minor League level is invaluable to guys like Slowey and Perkins. These guys are our top-rated prospects. Slowey is No. 2 behind Matt Garza, so you have to keep it in perspective.
"I faced the same problem in 2001 with Justin Morneau at [Double-A] New Britain. He joined the team late [10 games], and the lineup was doing well all year, but when Morneau got there he played first base and DH. You can never forget the player-development end."
Slowey began the season with Fort Myers of the Class A Florida State League and was dominant despite only posting a 4-2 record. He had a 1.01 ERA in 14 starts, earning a promotion to New Britain, where he went 4-3 with a 3.19 ERA in nine starts.
He was then named to Team USA and pitched the finale against Cuba in an Olympic qualifier, allowing one run in five innings, though he didn't figure in the decision.
"I don't think I'll be too nervous," Slowey said. "This is a great opportunity for me. I'm looking forward to pitching in front of a good crowd for a good team."
Perkins was 4-11 in 23 starts for Double-A New Britain this season but did post a 3.91 ERA. He started one game for Rochester before coming on in relief on Saturday and has allowed only one run in 10 1/3 innings for the Wings.
By activating Slowey and inserting Perkins into the rotation, Cliburn knows it might have an adverse impact on Munro and Gassner but didn't appear too concerned. Munro made two starts for Houston in the 2004 National League playoffs but gave up three runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings and didn't factor in the decision of a Game 3 loss against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Gassner, meanwhile, lasted only an inning and a third in Game 2, giving up five runs on six hits, struggling from the opening pitch.
"Sure, Gassner and Munro have been a big part of the team all year, especially Pete," Cliburn said. "But they've been around long enough to know about the player-development side of things. It's a scenario where, me being the manager and the pitching coach, are looking out for things from the development end. "I'm sure we all want to win. If I didn't have faith in these two guys [Slowey and Perkins] going out there and being effective they wouldn't be out there to begin with."
Cliburn said that both starters are candidates to go in Game 4 if necessary and that Gassner would be available out of the 'pen Tuesday night. He added that Gassner was experiencing a bit of a dead arm at the moment, and that was something that had to be considered as well.
"Slowey also beat the Cubans in front of 45,000 people in Havana," Cliburn said. "That's definitely as big a pressure situation as anybody can face. I'm sure it's a tough atmosphere in Havana. To go out and beat them there is pretty impressive."
Injury update: The Mud Hens were dealing with a pair of significant elbow injuries as the series opened that had manager Larry Parrish wondering whether he would have right-hander Brian Boehringer this series and just how effective outfielder Ryan Ludwick will be. Boehringer's status is questionable after getting hit on the right elbow by a Andy Gonzalez line drive in Game 4 of the semi-finals, while Ludwick has been dealing with a left elbow strain for the last few games.
"Ludwick's is on his front arm when he's swinging, and it's his throwing arm, but he's been able to play with it," Parrish said. "It's not as if he can't play."
Ludwick entered Tuesday's game having gone 1-for-21 in the playoffs, and that included going hitless in his previous 18 at-bats. He finished the regular season with 20 homers and 80 RBIs. His lone postseason hit has been a homer, and that was in the one-game playoff last Tuesday against Indianapolis. He had 13 strikeouts through Toledo's first five playoff games.
While Ludwick's power can be made up elsewhere, Boehringer's experience cannot. He was 5-5 in 18 games (eight starts), splitting the regular season between Toledo and Omaha of the Pacific Coast League. He went 3-1 with a 4.83 ERA for the Mud Hens and allowed only two runs in six innings against Charlotte before getting knocked out of the game.
All of which points to a productive pitcher. What it doesn't tell you is that Boehringer has spent parts of 10 seasons in the Major Leagues and has pitched in a pair of World Series, in 1996 with the Yankees and then again in '98 with the Padres.
"He's a guy who has pitched in bigger games, and he certainly pitched a lot for us down the stretch," Parrish said. "It's just a matter of waiting and seeing. He won't be able to pitch until the back end of the series anyway. We're just hoping he's going to be available."
Six degrees of Dustan Mohr: Toledo's Dustan Mohr and Cliburn have a unique relationship. Cliburn managed him at Double-A New Britain in 2001, but they knew each other for years before that with Mohr growing up about an hour away from Cliburn and his family. Mohr was so well liked by the Cliburn family that when the skipper's youngest brother, Roger, gave birth to twins, he named one of them Dustan. Dustan and Dylan Cliburn are now almost 3.
Going deep or going to the bench: The Mud Hens were the prototypical slugging team during the regular season, leading the International League in homers (152) and in strikeouts (1,194). They had a big hit-or-miss experience in the opening series against Charlotte and the playoff versus Indy, hitting .184 as a team with 63 strikeouts and 10 homers in five games.
"I'm hoping we don't hit .180 this series," Parrish said. "But when you get to this time of year, you just find ways to win. Even though we didn't hit for much of an average our pitching and defense played very well. If we win I'd take that again.
"It's sort of the way we played throughout the season. We hit some homers and we pitched well and we didn't beat ourselves a lot of days."
This and that: Two numbers of which Rochester rooters should be aware when the series heads to Toledo: The Mud Hens are 170-3 all-time at Fifth Third Field when leading going into the ninth inning, including going 35-1 this year. And they are 125-39 when scoring first at home, including going 27-6 this season. ... In addition, prior to Tuesday, the Wings were 3-13 against Toledo at Frontier Field since 2002.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.