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TOLEDO -- Humberto Sanchez bounded off the bullpen mound at Fifth Third Field and smiled Thursday afternoon. Feeling no ill effects from the 10-minute session, he trotted out to shortstop and fielded a few grounders before shagging flies during batting practice.
The promising right-hander won't be pitching for Toledo during the Governors' Cup finals, with the obvious importance being placed on Sanchez making a complete and healthy return from the elbow strain that has had him on the disabled list since the beginning of August. But Thursday's bullpen session, his second this week, was cause for optimism and a precursor to his stint in the Florida Instructional League once the playoffs have ended.
"It felt normal, for once," Sanchez said. "Now I'm just going to get ready to go to Florida and finish the rest of my work for the year. I don't know how long I'll be in Florida, probably only a couple of outings. This was only my second bullpen session, so I'm a little out of shape mechanically but there was no pain in the elbow."
Sanchez, who started for the World Team at the All-Star Futures Game in July, was 10-6 with a 2.63 ERA in 20 starts for Double-A Erie and Toledo. But he hasn't started since Aug. 3, when he gave up five hits in four innings against Louisville. He was placed on the disabled list Aug. 6.
Prior to the start against Louisville, Sanchez hadn't pitched since July 19 at Pawtucket because of tenderness in the elbow. During his time between starts, he was the subject of trade rumors that had him going to Washington in a potential deal for Alfonso Soriano, a trade that never materialized.
Sanchez, who pitched a career-high 123 innings this season, threw both fastballs and breaking balls Thursday after throwing only fastballs in his previous bullpen session Monday. He said that watching his friend, Francisco Liriano, go down with another elbow injury on Wednesday was in the back of his mind as he prepared for Thursday's bullpen.
"It's funny," Sanchez said. "We both got hurt around the same time and we both took the same amount of time. I talked to him after he started against Scranton and he said he felt normal, but I haven't talked to him since everything happened yesterday.
"If it's meant to be, though, I guess it will happen sooner or later. It sure puts it in the back of your mind, though. And he said he felt normal as to what his arm felt like before."
ROTATIONS SET: Toledo named Brian Boehringer as its Game 4 starter, proclaiming the right-hander healthy after he was struck on his pitching elbow by an Andy Gonzalez line drive in his last start against Charlotte. Boehringer didn't earn a decision in that game after allowing two earned runs in six innings.
"He's really pitched well down the stretch and he was pitching a great game in Charlotte," Mud Hens pitching coach Jeff Jones said. "But he has responded well to treatment. As hard as he was hit, I didn't figure he would pitch again, but with the extra day off he seems fine. He's been playing long toss, and last night he told us he feels fine."
Boehringer pitched in the Major League playoffs from 1996-98, appearing in the World Series for the Yankees in '96 and San Diego in '98.
Corey Hamman will get the nod for Toledo if a fifth game is needed. He is 0-1 with a 12.27 ERA in three playoff games. He has made one start, losing the semifinal opener against Charlotte during which he allowed five runs on four hits in three innings.
Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said that all pitchers would be available for Game 5, if there was one, but that he would be holding at least one starter back for Tuesday's Bricktown Showdown should his club make it to Oklahoma City.
Pete Munro will start Game 4 for Rochester, while manager Stan Cliburn has elected to come back with Mike Smith on short rest for Game 4. Munro got a no-decision against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, despite allowing three runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings in Game 3. The veteran right-hander was 8-12 with a 4.32 ERA during the season.
Smith is 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA in two postseason starts. He was brilliant in the series opener at Frontier Field, allowing one run and striking out 10 over seven innings. He left on the winning side but received a no-decision after the bullpen couldn't protect the lead.
There is precedent for Smith going on short rest. He started on three days' rest on Sept. 1 against Buffalo and pitched five shutout innings to help the Red Wings clinch a playoff spot.
Cliburn said that Kevin Slowey, who started and won Game 2, would get the start in Oklahoma City should this series go five games and the Red Wings make it that far. If Rochester wins Thursday and Friday night, Smith would be available to pitch Tuesday. Cliburn said he would discuss that scenario with Minnesota management should the need arise.
SPEAKING OF OKLAHOMA CITY: Parrish isn't a fan of the Bricktown Showdown and wasn't shy about voicing his opinion about the event and the format. His concern is taking home his second IL title.
"Tuesday doesn't even come into play," he said. "Winning this would be a lot more important than winning Tuesday. To me, a one-game playoff is like the All-Star game. I don't agree with it and I don't think much of the idea.
"Those guys have gone through a grind and if they win the PCL (Pacific Coast League) or the IL, that's enough. You know, we're not playing anyone in our hometown, we're playing it at a neutral site. I just don't think you're going to get much interest in a neutral city."
Officials from both leagues are expecting between 7,000 and 9,000 fans for Tuesday's game at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, which has a capacity of 13,066.
ADIOS, OHIO: The Yankees and Columbus Clippers officially parted ways Thursday, ending a 28-year relationship when the parent club announced it had not renewed its deal with the Triple-A franchise, according to a report in Thursday's Columbus Disptach.
Columbus Baseball Team Inc. has until the end of the month to sign with another Major League franchise. The Mets, Nationals and Orioles are still without Triple-A affiliations, but this move is just part of the International League shuffle.
The Yankees, Mets and Nationals are believed to be interested in signing a deal with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which ended its relationship with the Phillies earlier this month. The Phils will relocate their Triple-A team to Ottawa for a season before moving into a new ballpark in Allentown, Pa.
The Orioles had been using Ottawa as their Triple-A base, but with the Mets severing ties with Norfolk, it is believed Baltimore will be looking to move to northern Virginia. The Nationals are affiliated with New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League. The Yankees and Mets would find Scranton/Wilkes-Barre attractive because of its proximity (120 miles) to New York.
"I can guarantee there will be baseball in Columbus next season," Clippers president Ken Schnacke told The Dispatch.
THIS AND THAT: Several Detroit Tigers, who had an off day Thursday, made the trip to Toledo, about an hour down Interstate 75, for the game. Those in attendance were Joel Zumaya, Kevin Hooper, Chris Shelton, Jason Grilli, Curtis Granderson, Jordan Tata, Zach Miner, Nate Robertson and Marcus Thames. Joining them were Tigers broadcaster Rod Allen, former Mud Hens manager Bruce Fields and Detroit clubhouse manager Jim Schmakel. ... The seven consecutive strikeouts recorded by Glen Perkins was the most by a Rochester pitcher since at least 1993. ... The 17 hits by the Red Wings broke the modern era (post-1967) playoff record against the Mud Hens, topping the 15 collected by Richmond on Sept. 7, 1967. Every Red Wing had a hit, while eight of the nine players in the original Mud Hens lineup struck out. Only Ryan Ludwick, who had two of the six hits Perkins allowed, did not go down on strikes. ... The hit total also was the highest in the postseason by the Red Wings since they collected 17 at Richmond on Sept. 4, 1982, in the opening round.
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.