A promotion to the Eastern League has also meant a homecoming of sorts for Joe Panik, the No. 4 prospect in the Giants system who played last season for Class A Advanced San Jose in the California League.
The 6-foot-1 Panik was born in Yonkers, N.Y., raised up the road in Hopewell Junction and is a lifelong fan of Derek Jeter. The 22-year-old began this season with Richmond and had family and friends in the stands during April road games in New Britain and Trenton.
"It's been good to get back and play on the East Coast," he said. "I'm familiar with the Northeast and this kind of weather. The ball really travels in California. The parks here are legitimate size, and you really have to hit it to get it past the outfielders."
A standout at St. John's before he was taken in the first round by the Giants in 2011, Panik played shortstop when he won Northwest League MVP that year while leading the league with a .341 average for Salem-Keitzer. Panik also played short in 2012 for San Jose, where he hit .297 with 27 doubles, four triples, seven homers and 76 RBIs.
But this season the Giants have moved Panik to second base.
"It's gone pretty good," he said. "I've been a shortstop my whole life, but I've gotten used to the turns at second [on the double play]. That's probably the biggest [adjustment]. Coming to Spring Training, I knew I would be playing second and a little bit of short. I took a lot of reps at second and got comfortable there."
"He's been able to make the switch very easily," said Fred Stanley, director of player development for the Giants. "He has good footwork and a strong, accurate arm. It was an easy transition for him. He's making good strides offensively and defensively."
In games through Sunday, he's batting .301 in 133 at-bats with nine doubles, a triple and 13 RBIs. He had on on-base average of .386 and OPS of .784.
While his position has changed, Panik still has a consistent approach at the plate as a No. 2 hitter.
"I try to keep things simple. I don't try to hit a three-run homer with no one on base, so to speak. I just try to get on base -- walk, hit, double, whatever it takes. My main goal is to stay healthy and get a lot of at-bats. The rest will take care of itself," he said.
What does Panik notice in Double-A pitchers?
"The guys are a lot more consistent. Their stuff is better," he said. "I got off to a slow start, but I've gotten comfortable with the league."
One of his teammates last year at San Jose was outfielder Jarrett Parker, a second-round pick of the Giants in 2010 out of Virginia. Parker also moved up to Richmond this season.
"The thing about Joe is he always has quality, consistent at-bats," Parker said. "He's always driving the ball. He can spray the ball to left, right and center."
Familiar numbers: New Hampshire's Chad Jenkins, who allowed two runs in five innings May 6 in his only start for the Fisher Cats this year, was called up to Toronto and repeated that performace Sunday in Boston to earn a win. The 2009 first-rounder made 13 appearances, including three starts, for the Blue Jays last season.
Closing time is a tough time: The Baltimore Orioles have nearly a sure thing in closer Jim Johnson, but the Bowie Baysox, their Eastern League affiliate, are having trouble putting games away. Bowie gave up the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth Saturday and lost, 2-1, to Erie, leaving the Baysox 0-6 in games tied after the eighth inning.
Lucky shave: Reading's Cameron Rupp shaved his goatee Thursday, then said via Twitter that he didn't like the new look. The 24-year-old catcher promptly homered in three straight games, including a game-tying blast at home Saturday as the Fightin Phils came back to beat Akron, 7-5. "I thought it was time for a change," he told the Reading Eagle about shaving. Reading also needed a new look -- the team had lost 12 of 14 games prior to Saturday's comeback.