Bill Hass on Greensboro Grasshoppers Baseball from Thursday night at NewBridge Bank Park:Hoppers welcome new arms

Posted by Press Release on August 17, 2012 at 10:28 am under Professional | Comments are off for this article

from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball, at

Hoppers welcome new arms

Change is the nature of things in the low minor leagues.

With 17 games remaining in the regular season, the Hoppers find themselves with two new starters and a new closer. None of them appeared Thursday night in a 5-4 loss to Lakewood, but all are scheduled to pitch in the remainder of the four-game series.

Austin Brice will start Friday’s game, followed by the two new members of the rotation, Andrew Heaney on Saturday and Jake Esch on Sunday. Nick Wittgren will certainly get some work out of the bullpen during the series. When the Hoppers travel to Lexington, Jose Urena will start Monday and Josh Hodges Tuesday in piggyback tandem with Scott Lyman.

Pitching coach Blake McGinley said it shouldn’t be hard for the newcomers to adjust to a new league and a new team at this time of the year.

“It’s the same game,” McGinley said. “You just go out and perform. Don’t try to be someone different. It should be fun here; we’re a pretty relaxed group.”

Wittgren was the Marlins’ninth pick, out of Purdue, in this summer’s draft. He appeared n 17 games in Jamestown and recorded 11 saves with an ERA of 1.46. The Hoppers have used several pitchers in a closer-by-committee approach this season, but Wittgren is used to the role and can go back-to-back nights.

Heaney was Miami’s No. 1 pick this June. The left-hander from Oklahoma State was considered the most polished college pitcher available in the draft. He appeared in two games in the Gulf Coast League and threw seven innings, giving up two runs and striking out nine. Heaney started at West Virginia on the Hoppers’ road trip and gave up gave up eight hits and six runs in four innings.

“They got some broken-bat hits and some on checked swings,” said manager David Berg. “His stuff was good and the ball looked good coming out of his hand.”

McGinley said Heaney, whose college season ended in May, will be stretched out in his next couple of starts.

“He’s got a sneaky fastball and a good changeup and slider,” McGinley said. “He was a number one draft pick for a reason.”

Esch is an 11th-rounder drafted out of Georgia Tech last summer. He pitched in 10 games at Jamestown with a 3-0 record before moving to Greensboro. He appeared twice in relief and then made a start against West Virginia, allowing three runs in six innings. McGinley said Esch “has a live arm and can throw four pitches for strikes.”

To make room for Heaney and Wittgren, starter Charlie Lowell and reliever Brad Mincey were placed on the Temporary Inactive List.

Thursday night, Hodges pitched five innings and allowed three runs, including a two-run homer, and Lyman threw four innings and gave up two runs. Hodges has now thrown 137 innings this season and may be capped around 150.

Josh Adams delivered three RBI singles for the Hoppers and Ryan McIntyre hit a solo home run but the Hoppers twice left runners stranded on third base with just one out.

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