GREENSBORO — The Grasshoppers who return today from a four-day road trip to Augusta are a different team than the one that went 44-25 in the first half of the South Atlantic League season.
Only 10 of the 25 players in uniform now were on Greensboro’s opening-day roster.
But that is life in the minor leagues. Players come and go. And after the June amateur draft, there is typically a lot of movement.
Hoppers’ All-Stars Mason Martin, Rodolfo Castro, Lolo Sánchez and Brad Case have all been promoted to Bradenton of the Advanced Class-A Florida State League. Bradenton’s pitching staff includes nine men promoted from Greensboro.
Utility infielder Pat Dorrian was part of a trade between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. Dorrian is hitting .300 for the Frederick Keys of the Carolina League now.
And still the Hoppers have held their own, going 16-14 since the All-Star break.
“The team has a different character now, since we’ve had a few guys promoted and Dorrian got traded,” Hoppers manager Miguel Pérez said. “It’s changed us. But it’s a great thing that we’re sending guys up and getting new guys coming in. That’s our job, you know? The new guys have been tremendous, ready to play and fit into those spots. But, yes, it’s a different dynamic.”
That’s because the core of the first-half lineup — Martin, Castro and Sánchez — were all experienced. Each turned 20 years old before the All-Star break, but all three had spent significant time in the South Atlantic League last season.
“They’re so young, I don’t want to call them veterans,” Pérez said, “but they were veterans to this team, veterans of this league.
“The guys who have come to fill those spots have been great for us. We’re still playing the same way. We’re still aggressive on the bases. We might depend a little more on small ball, but we’ve been producing runs. The last two series (in Greensboro) we’ve scored 40-plus runs.”
Luke Mangieri was called up from the New York-Penn League, where he was hitting .328, to fill Martin’s spot. The 22-year-old first baseman hit the ground running, batting .282 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in his first 11 games.
Jack Herman, an All-Star in the Gulf Coast League last summer, arrived on the first day of June and has batted .262 with nine home runs in 37 games since. He’s just 19 years old.
And since being recalled June 28, outfielder Jonah Davis, 22, has batted .273 with six home runs and 20 RBIs in 22 games.
Of the Hoppers remaining from opening day, no one has been better than center fielder Fabricio Macías. The 21-year-old from Saltillo in Mexico comes home with a .287 batting average, 10th among all qualifiers in the Sally League.
Macías ranks second in the league with 63 runs scored and seventh with 96 hits.
“I like that he’s so very calm,” Pérez said. “He’s quiet and doesn’t say much. But those emotions he doesn’t show off the field come through on the field. He’s aggressive out there. He’s smart. He’s a thinking player, very precise in his decision-making.
“Sometimes he’s over-aggressive, but that’s something I’ve encouraged him to do. I want him to play aggressive. If you make a mistake, so what? We can have a conversation and tomorrow is another day. You’ll never find out anything about yourself if you don’t take risks.”
Macías found out a lot about himself early in the season, when he started April in a 5-for-60 (.083) slump. Worried about losing his job, he was pressing, trying too hard as the slump deepened.
“I still remember that conversation we had when we were in Hagerstown on a road trip,” Pérez said. “He was struggling, had maybe five or seven hits. We talked — me, the staff and Macías — just to reinforce that we trust what he does. We wanted him to know we had confidence in him, and that whatever was happening, he was going to keep playing.”
In 71 games since then, Macías has batted .332 with all eight of his home runs and all 52 RBIs.
“He’s been one of the most consistent guys on this team since then,” Pérez said. “He very quietly has been increasing his numbers. But the fact we had Mason Martin hitting all those bombs, and all those RBIs from Martin and Castro, and Lolo Sánchez hitting .300 — Macías was under the radar, very quietly getting his average up and his numbers higher.”
RECORD IN REACH
Right-hander Osvaldo Bido leads the Sally League in victories, going 11-5 with a 3.58 ERA in his 19 starts so far.
Those 11 victories also tie Bido for the Grasshoppers’ franchise record for wins in a single season. Since Greensboro’s team moved into the downtown ballpark in 2005 and became the Hoppers, seven pitchers (counting Bido) have won 11 games.
Bido features a slider, a sinking two-seam fastball and a changeup. With all the movement on his pitches, he wants the hitter to make contact. Just not solid contact.
“He just has the right mindset,” Pérez said. “You know what to expect from him each day. Pitchers are always going to set the tone in this game, and when Bido is on the mound, you know the game’s going to be faster. He’s going to be around the plate, so there will be more swings, more contact. If you saw him pitch (Wednesday), you knew he was in charge out there.”
If he stays healthy (and stays in Greensboro), Bido will likely get six or seven more starts, each a chance to set a franchise record for wins.