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Matt Fraizer promoted after Hoppers' matinee win

Nick Gonzales and Aaron Shackelford hit HRs in win over Hickory, but Hoppers lose league's top hitter to Altoona
Grasshoppers lead-off hitter Matt Fraizer was promoted to Class-AA Altoona following Wednesday's game. In 75 games for Greensboro, Fraizer posted league-leading totals of 95 hits, 43 walks, 64 runs, 20 home runs and a .314 batting average. (Jak Kerley/Greensboro Grasshoppers)
August 4, 2021

GREENSBORO ― The best offensive player in the league so far this season was promoted Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the Greensboro Grasshoppers won without him in the lineup. Lead-off hitter Matthew Fraizer had a scheduled day off for the Hoppers' matinee against the Hickory Crawdads, watching from the dugout in

GREENSBORO ― The best offensive player in the league so far this season was promoted Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the Greensboro Grasshoppers won without him in the lineup.

Lead-off hitter Matthew Fraizer had a scheduled day off for the Hoppers' matinee against the Hickory Crawdads, watching from the dugout in what would be his last day in Greensboro.

He saw Nick Gonzales go 2-for-4 with a two-run home run and a double, and Aaron Shackelford hit his 18th home run of the year, leading the Hoppers to a 6-2 victory over the Crawdads at First National Bank Field.

Fraizer hit his way up the minor-league ladder to Class-AA Altoona. The 23-year-old outfielder leads the High-A East in hits (95), walks (43), runs (64), home runs (20) and batting average (.314). He ranks second in the league in slugging percentage (.578) and second in OPS (.979). Fraizer stole 14 bases in 20 attempts.

"Man, he earned it," Hoppers manager Kieran Mattison said. "You don't replace a hitter like Matt Fraizer in your lineup. You just don't. You figure out new ways to do things, but you can't replace everything he gave you with one guy."

Greensboro teammates mob Matt Fraizer (right) at the plate after a walk-off home run last month. Fraizer led the High-A East with 20 home runs when he was promoted to Class-AA Altoona. Jak Kerley/Greensboro Grasshoppers

Mattison gave Fraizer the news of his promotion in private.

"You want to celebrate something like that, but you approach it differently depending on the guy," Mattison said. "Fraizer is a private person, a low-key guy who doesn't like a lot of attention. So I called him into my office to tell him instead of announcing it in front of all the guys. Word is going to get out, you know? That way the guys could congratulate him one-on-one. We're all happy for him."

The Hoppers shook up their lineup for the day game after a night game, but Gonzales and Shackelford had two RBIs apiece.

Gonzales, a second baseman rated by MLB Pipeline as the top prospect in Pittsburgh's farm system, hit a long opposite-field home run into the net beyond the fence in right-center field to put the Hoppers ahead 6-1.

Shackelford, meanwhile, homered for the third time in his last four games, a two-run shot in the first inning that registered 104 mph exit velocity and would've traveled an estimated 397 feet if not for the net protecting Eugene Street.

Matt Gorski extended his hitting streak to seven games with an RBI double in the first inning. Andres Alvarez hit a run-scoring single in the sixth inning and was on base when Gonzales capped the scoring with his home run.

Winning pitcher Santiago Florez (1-1, 5.14 ERA) looked sharp in his fourth start for the Hoppers since his promotion from Class-A Bradenton. The 21-year-old right-hander pitched through discomfort from a blister on his right hand, and he allowed one unearned run on two hits in five solid innings, striking out seven.

Relievers Colin Selby and Will Kobos combined for eight strikeouts over the final four innings.

Notes

  • Greensboro (50-30) remains in second place behind Bowling Green in the High-A East's South Division, and closed to within 1 1/2 games behind North Division leader Hudson Valley in the race for the second of two playoff spots. "Yeah, we're thinking about (playoffs), because everybody wants to take home some hardware," Mattison said. "But we're also playing the long game. The ultimate goal for these guys is to help Pittsburgh win a World Series someday. But part of development is learning to win at every level."
  • Greensboro has won nine of its last 12 games and is 22-8 since July 1.
  • Third baseman Jared Triolo played shortstop on Wednesday to give starter Liover Peguero a day off. Triolo went 1-for-4 and has hit safely in 23 of his last 26 games, batting .361 (39-for-108) with seven doubles, four home runs, 26 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in that span. He ranks fourth in the High-A East with 57 RBIs, and he has raised his batting average from .237 on June 1 to .299 through Aug. 4.
  • Lefty-hitting Blake Sabol also got the day off. He has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games, going 20-for-51 (.392) with four doubles and five home runs during that span.

In his career at the News & Record, journalist Jeff Mills won 10 national and 12 state writing awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, the Society for Features Journalism, and the N.C. Press Association.