Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers “itching” to begin first home stand

Hoppers “itching” to begin first home stand
(from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball[Greensboro Grasshoppers] at

If you’re facing a long ride home from a road trip — and Lakewood, N.J., to Greensboro is a long ride — it’s a little easier if you win before boarding the bus.

The Hoppers did that Wednesday, topping the BlueClaws 7-2 before heading home. They finished their road trip to start the season with a 2-5 record and will open their first home stand Thursday against Delmarva at 7 p.m.

The frame of mind was better after the Hoppers won what manager Kevin Randel called “the most important game of the series — travel day.”

Opening on the road underscored just how young this team is.

“You can tell how undisciplined and free-swinging the young players are,” Randel said in a phone call as the team bus rumbled through West Virginia. “Plus, we had three or four great days in Greensboro before we left, warm weather with the ball flying out.”

The weather was much colder and the ballparks much bigger in Delmarva and Lakewood.

“They didn’t handle adversity well,” Randel said, “but that will change with experience and maturity. The talent hasn’t shown, but it will. It’s lurking in the weeds. They’re itching to get back home.”

Three hitters are off to good starts and it’s notable that they are three of the oldest players. Catcher and first baseman Arturo Rodriguzez went 9-for-18 with four RBIs, first baseman Austen Smith hit both the team’s home runs and collected five RBIs and second baseman Mason Davis hit .292. Rodriguez and Smith are 23, Davis is 22.

Rodriguez was signed as a free agent by the Marlins and has experience playing in Mexico. Randel said he has “an advanced bat” with a good swing and a mature approach in the box. Smith played at Alabama and Randel likes his bat. Davis played at The Citadel and has impressed with his versatility and professional approach.

From a pitching standpoint, Jose Adames made two good starts and Ben Holmes made another.

“Adames has big-league written all over him,” Randel said. “He has good velocity and some sharp breaking balls.”

Relievers James Buckelew and Josh Hodges picked up the Hoppers’ victories. Hodges has struggled since he went 8-10 as a starter here in 2012 and is looking to get his game back on track.

NOTES: Scott Squier, a 6-foot-5 lefty who played at Hawaii, is scheduled to start the home opener. He took the loss in the third game at Delmarva, giving up two runs and seven his in 4 1/3 innings … Shortstop Justin Twine tweaked a hamstring and was put on the disabled list … The Hoppers added infielder Rony Cabrera to fill his spot.