IL notes: Eldred nestles in with Hens

Veteran provides Toledo with leadership, power at the plate

By John Wagner / Special to | April 23, 2012 6:00 AM ET

When Detroit signed Brad Eldred as a six-year free agent before this season, Toledo Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin called San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy to find out more about the slugger.

"He came with a high recommendation from Bochy, both as a clubhouse guy and leader as well as a guy who can hit with power," Nevin said of Eldred.

Mud Hens hitting coach Leon "Bull" Durham, who coached Eldred in the Pan-Am Games last season, also was high on adding him to Toledo's roster.

"He has a lot of 'pop' in his bat, he's good in the locker room, and he's the veteran-type guy you need to share his knowledge about the game," Durham said.

But neither Nevin nor Durham could have predicted how Eldred has started this season.

Eldred currently leads the IL in home runs (eight) and RBIs (25), which isn't surprising since he topped the league in both categories when he finished with 35 homers and 100 RBIs for Charlotte in 2008.

The surprise is that Eldred has started the season with an IL-best 17-game hit streak and ranks seventh in the league with a .368 average, well above his career Minor League mark of .265.

Eldred said his fast start is the product of some changes he made late last season while with Fresno in the Pacific Coast League.

"Late into last year, I made more of an effort to be selective at the plate, to 'see' the ball and be more reactive," he explained. "The first part of my career, I was very aggressive.

"Now I have focused on being disciplined and getting good pitches to hit."

It's an approach that hasn't diminished his power, since he has eight doubles and a triple to go with the home runs so far this season.

"His path doesn't have to be just to left -- it can be to center or to right field," Durham said. "And he doesn't have to drive the ball out of the park. If he keeps the barrel of the bat in the strike zone, his average will improve -- and he still has his power."

Eldred, who plays first base and designated hitter for the Mud Hens, knows his path to the big leagues is blocked by Detroit's Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. But at 31 years old, the former Pittsburgh prospect has learned the value of not worrying about things he can't control.

"I don't worry about anything besides what I'm doing on a particular day," Eldred said. "Everybody might say that, but what's going on around you may not have anything to do with what you're doing.

"I'm just really enjoying the chance to go out here and play every day. At this point, anything positive that happens outside of that is something you should just take and enjoy."

In brief

Road woes: Durham has won the IL's South Division title each of the past five seasons, but the Bulls are going to need to do better on the road if they wish to extend that streak this season. Durham is 1-9 away from home, thanks in part to a .246 team batting average and an 8.11 ERA. The Bulls are 5-2 at home with a .272 team batting average and a 3.44 staff ERA.

Harvey's big day: The first Triple-A win for Buffalo RHP Matt Harvey was a memorable one as he beat Syracuse 6-4 on April 20. In that contest, Harvey struck out six of the first seven hitters he faced and finished with 10 K's, tying his career high. He also had a two-run single in the fourth that broke a 2-2 tie and added a single in the sixth. Harvey allowed three runs on four hits and three walks over six innings.

He said it: "I'm ready to go anywhere -- catcher, DH ... I'll carry the water cooler to the dugout." -- Rochester C Drew Butera to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. Butera, one of three catchers with Major League experience on the Red Wings roster -- Rene Rivera and J.R. Towles are the others -- even has played in left field for Rochester this season. Butera told the newspaper he hasn't played in left field since high school.

John Wagner is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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