Bill on Baseball:Hoppers feed off energy of new players

from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

Hoppers feed off energy of new players

Sometimes an infusion of new blood can rejuvenate a team.

That’s certainly been the case for the Hoppers in the series against Delmarva. Thursday night, Blake Barber hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning of a 9-6 win. Friday, Jose Behar had two hits and scored a run and Ronald Barnes pitched two hitless innings in relief for the save in a 6-5 victory. Saturday, it was Yefri Perez’s turn.

Just promoted from Batavia in the New York-Penn League, he made his debut in the starting lineup as the Hoppers’ leadoff hitter. He responded with a three-run triple, a single, two runs scored and two stolen bases to propel Greensboro to a 10-2 romp over the Shorebirds.

“I’m not surprised,” said manager Jorge Hernandez, who had Perez on his Gulf Coast League team in 2010 and 2011. “He brings a lot of energy, has good speed and plays hard. He’s a guy who can really help us. He gives us a true leadoff hitter.”

The 22-year-old outfielder, who is converting from second base, hit .325 with two homers and seven RBIs in 10 games in Batavia. So what kind of impression did he want to make in his first game as a Hopper?

“Just play good,” he said, with teammate Yordy Cabrera helping with the translation. “I always play with energy. I might play good or bad, but I play hard every time.”

Perez came up in a key situation with the bases loaded in the second inning and the game tied 1-1. He lined a triple into the gap in left center field, showing his speed to easily reach third. He came in to score on a double by Jesus Solorzano.

“I just tried to hit it good with the bases loaded,” he said. “You throw me a fastball and I can hit it in the gap.”

The old blood — guys who have been with the team all season — also had plenty to contribute. Viosergy Rosa had three hits and drove in four runs with a ground-rule double in the first inning and his 17th home run, a three-run shot, in the eighth. That capped a five-run inning and pushed Rosa’s season total to 50 RBIs.

Solorzano had three more hits, including two doubles, and scored twice. Matt Juengel and Blake Barber each had three hits, giving the Hoppers four players with that many on the night. And Anthony Gomez had three RBIs.

“We had a big offense with a lot of quality at-bats up and down the lineup tonight,” Hernandez said. “When we win it’s usually a close game, so it was nice to sit back, relax and enjoy that one.”

Starting pitcher Dejai Oliver pitched six innings, allowing four hits and three walks but just one run as he picked up his second win. He got himself out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning by allowing just one run.

“I tried to keep the damage to a minimum,” Oliver said. “They’re an aggressive team and the game plan was to stick to what I do best, which is mix my pitches and get them to swing at what I want them to swing at.”

Pitching coach Blake McGinley said Oliver, who was knocked around by Hickory in his previous start, this time repeated his delivery well, controlled his fastball, curve and changeup and got a lot of groundouts — 11, to be exact.

“That last outing was a motivational tool for me,” Oliver said. “It was definitely in the back of my mind that I wanted to go out and prove myself again.”

The teams wrap up the series Sunday at 4 p.m. with Mason Hope starting for the Hoppers.

ROSTER CHANGES: Here’s what has happened with the roster in the past two days. New position players are outfielder Perez, who will also play some second base, and infielder Rehiner Cordova. New pitchers bolstering the bullpen are Barnes, Sean Donatello and left-hander Beau Wright. To make room, pitcher Dane Stone was sent to Batavia, pitcher Matt Milroy was placed on the disabled list and infielder Yeison Hernandez, despite having three hits Friday, was sent to the Gulf Coast League.