Will Rhymes has played games with the Mud Hens in each of the past four seasons. But these past few days Rhymes found himself in the visitor's dugout as a member of the Durham Bulls.
Rhymes was released by Detroit this past off-season and signed as a minor-league free agent by Tampa Bay. The four-game series between the Hens and Bulls was his first games in Toledo since last year.
"I was a little surprised when I was non-tendered [by the Tigers]," Rhymes admitted when asked about the off-season. "I enjoyed my time with Detroit, and I enjoyed my time with Toledo, but it was a good time for a change of scenery.
"I won't say I'm happier, but I would say I'm in a good place here."
Rhymes had a six-game cameo with the Mud Hens in 2008, then hit .260 with three homers, 41 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 109 games here in 2009. In 2010 the Houston native batted .305 with 22 steals in 95 games to earn a promotion to Detroit, where he hit .304 in 54 games.
Last season Rhymes began the season with the Tigers but split the year between Detroit, where he hit .235 in 29 games, and the Mud Hens, where he batted .306 with 13 steals in 104 games.
Rhymes has spent extended time with Tampa Bay this season, playing in 47 games. He has seen action at both second base and third base for the Rays and hit .228 in his time in the big leagues.
"It's been a good year, for the most part," Rhymes said. "I was given a chance to play a lot up there, which was awesome, and I thought I contributed up there.
"The way [Tampa Bay manager] Joe Madden used me was that he likes to play match-ups, so that was great."
After spending the month of April with Durham, the Rays promoted him to Tampa Bay on May 2. And Rhymes hit well early in that stint in the majors, batting .283 before he was struck on the forearm by a 95-mph fastball from Boston's Franklin Morales.
You probably remember the video: Rhymes gets plunked, makes his way to first base, then collapses in the arms of Tampa Bay first-base coach George Hendricks. What you may not remember is that Rhymes returned to the lineup just three days later, but he hit just .114 in June and was sent back to Durham recently.
"It's hard to say [if the injury caused my troubles at the plate]," Rhymes said. "In retrospect, I probably came back a little too soon from it. Tampa Bay had a lot of injuries, so I came back.
"But I wasn't the same: mentally I was fine, but my hand was numb. I tried my best to play through it. I wouldn't say it was a turning point in the season, but it was unfortunate timing. I was getting comfortable with the Rays [organization], comfortable with the team. And I was playing well."
Rhymes has hit .267 with three home runs, 18 RBIs and a pair of stolen bases in 37 games with the Bulls.
"He's the same guy I saw here in Toledo -- a gamer who plays the game the right way," Durham manager Charlie Montoyo said. "Actually he has been more in the big leagues more than he has been with us."
Montoyo said Rhymes will see action in left field, at second base and third base for the Bulls.
"When he goes to Tampa Bay, he plays all over," Montoyo said. "So the goal for us is to give him at-bats and keep him sharp at different positions, in case they need him again."