Eight-hour bus rides don't mean slapping on headphones and snoozing to music or watching movies for South Bend third baseman Brandon Drury. It's a time for productivity, a time to turn his space into a classroom, so that when he steps off the bus, he's a better hitter than when he boarded.
Drury uses his time on the road to study Major League hitters and learn from their actions.
"I try to watch games every day," Drury said. "I have the MLB app on my phone, so I can watch whatever game I want. I watch the recaps and watch certain batters.
"I watch the best players in the game -- David Wright, Evan Longoria. They're not in there just hacking at the first pitch every at-bat, swinging at anything. They're taking pitches. You see them staying on off-speed pitches, because they have an approach. They're looking for something."
Drury, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-handed hitter, is hitting .311 with 14 homers and a Midwest League-leading 46 doubles. The numbers are a significant jump from last season, when he hit .229 with six homers and 22 doubles for the Rome Braves in the South Atlantic League.
"I've always been able to hit for power. I've just never had this good of an approach before, to be able to commit to sitting on certain pitches," Drury said. "I'm more patient, and I'm sitting on pitches that I want to hit, not what the pitcher wants me to hit. It just takes time to learn and get that approach."
Drury, a native of Grants Pass, Ore., was drafted in the 13th round in 2010 by the Braves. He was dealt to the Diamondbacks with utility man Martin Prado and pitchers Randall Delgado and Zeke Spruill for outfielder Justin Upton and infielder Chris Johnson on Jan. 24.
Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said Drury has been a major plus from the deal with the Braves.
"Brandon had a down year last year -- that's probably why he was available," said Towers, who was in South Bend to watch the Silver Hawks last week. "It was a good job by our scouts. Our scouts really liked him.
"Brandon has got the work ethic you look for," he added. "Sometimes he's the type of kid you have to slow down because he wants to take as many reps in the way of infield as well as hitting in the cage. From our scouting reports from within as well as scouts I've talked to from other clubs, they all have great things to say about him. It's nice to have a guy who can play both sides of the ball. He not only can play defense, but he's a good offensive player as well."
Drury was caught off-guard by the trade, but went into the D-backs organization determined to succeed.
"It was shocking at first," Drury said of the trade. "To know the Diamondbacks wanted me was a pretty cool thing. I think the change of scenery helped me out. It was a fresh start. It wasn't a difficult transition. I think it could be with certain teams, but the Diamondbacks are so focused about being yourself and playing the way you want to play. There are rules, but it's more about feeling good and playing hard. The style they play -- grinding it out -- fits my style of play."
Gretzky to Kane County: Outfielder Trevor Gretzky has been promoted by the Cubs from Boise to Kane County. Gretzky was drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 Draft. The son of hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, Trevor was hitting .256 in 27 games with the Hawks.
Appel staying put: Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, will be staying in Quad Cities to finish his season. Appel had been projected to finish at the Astros' Double-A team, Corpus Christi. Now the plan is to let Appel have two more starts (five innings each) with Quad Cities and then shut down for the rest of the season. Appel, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound right-hander from Stanford, is 1-1 with a 4.70 ERA in six games (23 innings) for the River Bandits.
Reversal of fortune: Bowling Green left-hander Kevin Brandt pitched six innings of no-hit ball in his Midwest League debut Monday, but the Hot Rods suffered a 3-2 loss to the Lake County Captains. It was the second time in four games that Bowling Green took a no-hitter into the eighth inning.