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Mudcats make use of versatile Toole
Carolina utility man plays all nine positions in win over Salem
08/25/2012 10:35 PM ET
Justin Toole caught professionally for the first time Saturday.
Justin Toole caught professionally for the first time Saturday. (Tom Miller/Carolina Mudcats)
At the beginning of the season, Carolina Mudcats manager Edwin Rodriguez asked Justin Toole what positions he could play. "Anywhere you need me," Toole responded.

On Saturday, Rodriguez took him up on the offer.

The Mudcats' utility man played all nine positions, part of a "Toole Time" promotion at Five County Stadium, and Jordan Cooper tossed seven shutout innings as the Class A Advanced Mudcats held on for a 4-2 victory over Salem.

Toole already had played first base, second, third, shortstop and left field this season before making his way around the entire diamond Saturday.

"My manager ... came up to me at the beginning of the year and asked me where I could play. I told him, 'Anywhere,' and he came up to me later and said I'd play all nine positions later this year," Toole said. "I kind of laughed [at the time], but as the season was winding down, he picked tonight and we ran with it."

Toole began the game in right field, moving across the outfield over the first three innings. He made his way to the infield in the fourth, starting at first base and reaching third by the seventh. He caught the eighth and finished the night on the mound.

Toole, who made four relief appearances at the University of Iowa in 2007 and was the state's 2005 Class 4A Pitcher of the Year, began the ninth with a popup before allowing back-to-back homers to Drew Hedman and Sean Coyle. He settled down after a visit to the mound and wrapped things up with consecutive strikeouts.

Toole had made one appearance as a pitcher in pro ball, throwing a scoreless inning for Class A Advanced Kinston on Aug. 18, 2010.

"[Pitching] definitely was something I was excited about," he said. "I was never a guy that threw very hard, so I was never recruited as a pitcher, but it's something I've always enjoyed. To get that opportunity in a situation like this was a dream come true.

"I think if you would have asked me at the beginning of the game I could end with two strikeouts, I would've taken it. That was a good way to end it."

Toole said the one position he was most nervous about playing was catcher, something he'd done only a handful of times in his life. Luckily for him, Mudcats reliever Rob Nixon had his best stuff, striking out two in a perfect eighth.

"Definitely one of the ones I hadn't played would be catching," Toole said. "I told Nixon if there's anything you don't like, just shake it off, no problem. He and I seemed to be on the same page, though; he struck out a couple."

As a do-it-all utility man, Toole has moved up and down the Indians' system this season, filling spots as injuries and promotions necessitated. The 25-year-old had an eight-game stint with Double-A Akron earlier this month after appearing in six games with Triple-A Columbus in April and May.

Given the various assignments, he wasn't positive he'd get back to Carolina to make a bid to play nine positions in nine innings.

"It was something in the back of my head [all year] that I would hopefully get a chance to do it," he said. "Being a utility guy, I bounce around a bit, up to Columbus, up to Akron. And when I was up there, I wasn't sure I would get to come back and do that, but due to some shuffling, I came back here. And that was one of the first things [Rodriguez] said to me: 'You get to play all nine now.'

"You think it'll be cool, not sure it'll happen, but it was a blast. As I get older as a utility guy I'll be able to say I did it. A big thanks to my teammates and the coaching staff and the Indians organization for allowing me to go out and do that. And it ended up being a good team win, hopefully get us on a roll."

Toole, who's batting .225 in 90 games, went 1-for-4 on Saturday.

Giovanny Urshela homered twice and Delvi Cid doubled and drove in two runs for the Mudcats. Cooper (8-7) gave up six hits and struck out six over seven frames to win his second straight start.

Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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