When Robbie Grossman
set as his goal this season to score 100 runs, the odds certainly weren't with him. That milestone had been reached just once over the past 10 years in the Florida State League, and Grossman was coming off a disappointing first season with Bradenton.
"You have to have high expectations," the Marauders outfielder and primary leadoff hitter said.
Grossman reached his goal with more than a month left in the season, scoring his 100th run July 31. Now the Pittsburgh Pirates prospect is nearing another distinctive accomplishment.
No Minor League player has scored 100 runs and walked 100 times in the same season since 2004, when New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher accomplished the feat for Triple-A Sacramento while a member of the A's organization.
Through 113 games, Grossman has 94 walks to go with his 105 runs scored. It's all part of a breakout year for the 21-year-old native of Texas.
Grossman hit just .245 last season in the Class A Advanced league, and the speedy switch-hitter needed plenty of bunt hits from the left side to get his average that high.
Solid from both sides now, Grossman is batting .287 with 37 extra-base hits to go with his 23 stolen bases. But it was his runs and walks that set him apart. One was his goal; the other has helped him reach it.
Grossman's run total is the most in the Florida State League since Brian Burgamy of Clearwater scored 110 times in 2006. The last player in the league to reach 100 walks was Joe Lawrence of Dunedin with 105 in 1998.
"I knew if I could score 100 runs, it would help my team win," Grossman said. "It was a team goal as well as an individual goal."
The Marauders have certainly benefited. They lead the South Division standings in the second half and had won nine straight games through Monday.
Grossman's development at the plate is dramatically shown by the difference in his strikeout-to-walk ratio from a year ago. He had 118 strikeouts to go with 66 walks in 2010. This year he has walked one more time than he has struck out.
A left-handed thrower but natural right-handed hitter, Grossman didn't start switch-hitting until midway through high school, and his late start was obvious heading into this season.
"I'm beginning to figure it out," said Grossman, who is second in the league with a .421 on-base percentage. "I'm more comfortable batting left-handed. I'm putting out better swings and driving the ball."
Grossman is hitting .333 right-handed compared to .269 from the left side. But eight of his nine homers and 20 of his other 28 extra-base hits had come as a left-handed hitter.
"I was challenged last year to bunt a lot," Grossman said. "Now I'm up there swinging away most of the time."
Not wildly, of course. His walk total illustrates his new patience at the plate.
Grossman seemed headed to the University of Texas out of high school, but the sixth-round 2008 Draft pick was convinced otherwise with a bonus of $1 million after a trip to Pittsburgh.
"I realized this is what I'd always wanted to do, and what a huge opportunity it was," Grossman said.
Grossman has played two seasons in the Pirates' Grapefruit League ballpark. In the future, he'd like to make McKechnie Field his regular Spring Training home.
"I'm happy with my season, but you can't be satisfied," Grossman said. "I know I have a lot to work on still. My ultimate goal is to play in the big leagues."
Ruf is ready: Clearwater's Darin Ruf was 14-for-29 with four homers and eight RBIs over an eight-day stretch, raising his average to .319. He was second in the Florida State League batting race and led with 36 doubles. Ruf also had 15 homers and 70 RBIs. He was hitting .368 with 11 homers in the second half.
Etheridge on hold: Wes Etheridge went on the disabled list with a sore knee soon after setting the Dunedin record with his 32nd save in as many tries on July 22. The sinkerball specialist is expected to return this month, but the time off could cost him a chance at the Florida State League record. The mark is 38 saves, done most recently by R.A. Dickey of Charlotte in 1998.
Rohan a hot addition: Greg Rohan batted .366 with six homers and 17 RBIs in his first 19 games with Daytona after being promoted from the Midwest League. The home run total was one more than he had in 75 games for Peoria, where he batted .314 with 52 RBIs. Rohan drove in five runs with a pair of homers at Clearwater on Sunday.