Bakersfield Blaze shortstop Didi Gregorius
has shown some impressive tools in his young career: tremendous range, a strong arm and promising power potential. Now, in his second full season of professional baseball, he's striving to improve every facet of his game to grow into a successful Major Leaguer.
The 21-year-old may seem young, but he's been playing baseball all his life, thanks to his father, grandfather and brother. His father, also named Didi, played and coached in the Netherlands and Curacao, while older brother Johnny played professionally in the Netherlands, Curacao and Italy.
The younger Didi was born in Amsterdam and spent time in the Netherlands and Curacao, traveling back and forth to see his dad play in Honkbal Hoofdklasse (the top professional league in the Netherlands) and be with his mother in Willemstad. Gregorius has taken lessons from his family as well as Major Leaguers he's watched all his life.
"[I see] what they do and try to be like them," he said. "[I'm] trying to be better than they are."
Another former Major Leaguer has helped Gregorius this season. Blaze manager Ken Griffey Sr. has shown the young shortstop how to have fun while playing the game.
"He has jokes to keep people loose," Gregorius said.
Gregorius was a member of the Netherlands' 2009 World Cup team with several players who contributed to the Oranje's successful run through the World Baseball Classic. He looked up to his experienced teammates and got to stick with J.C. Sulbaran, a right-handed pitcher with whom he's played since the two were children in Curacao.
Gregorius and Sulbaran, who went on the disabled list Saturday, were reunited as teammates last year at Class A Dayton. The pair of Reds prospects are together again in Bakersfield.
"We know each other really well," Gregorius said.
He's also used to jet-setting around the globe. Last winter, he played for the Canberra Calvary in the Australian Baseball League, where he won the Golden Glove Award as the league's top defensive player. The year before, Gregorius played in Taiwan with the Dutch team.
Gregorius came to the California League with the goal of developing each component of his game with equal care and attention.
"You can't work on one thing and have other things go bad," he said. "I'm working on defense and hitting. Defensively, I can say I'm a lot better than I was before."
Welcome to the hitters' league: Lake Elsinore left-hander Andrew Werner had a smashing Cal League debut, allowing one unearned run in his first three starts through the beginning of the month. He ran into some problems July 10 when he allowed four runs over five innings in a win over Visalia. His ERA with the Storm stands at 1.88, and he has 20 strikeouts and four walks in 24 innings.
Nuts stomp Ports: Modesto walloped Stockton in a 20-2 win on July 7. The Nuts led after two innings, 4-0, then muscled up with a 12-run third. Every Modesto batter had a hit as Josh Rutledge went 5-for-6 with three runs scored and Carlos Martinez homered twice and drove in four runs. Modesto starter Edwar Cabrera was the beneficiary of the offensive outburst, picking up his first win at the Class A Advanced level. He struck out nine over six innings and allowed a run on five hits.
A return to form: Visalia righty Trevor Harden ended a string of bad starts with a July 6 win over Inland Empire. He allowed one run on five hits over five innings for his first victory since April 28, breaking a five-start losing streak. He also remedied a tendency to serve up the longball; he had allowed 11 of his 15 homers over the last eight outings.