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Greensboro got a real welcoming

June 11, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

At first, Greensboro manager Andy Haines thought someone was pulling his leg.

“Someone came in my office (last) Saturday and said, “Congratulations on the win. Ready to face Ryan Zimmerman tomorrow?’” Haines said. “I thought he was kidding.”

It wasn’t a joke.

Haines and his Grasshoppers were coming to Hagerstown last Sunday to start a three-game series with the Suns for first place in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division and they were scheduled to face a lineup with Zimmerman — the Washington Nationals third baseman — and Bryce Harper, the organization’s top prospect, batting back-to-back.

Haines thought something was up, thanks to Bruce Quinn, the majority owner of the Suns and a personal friend.

“I knew Bruce was there and he had some pull,” Haines said with a laugh. “I thought he was bringing in a ringer and getting a major league guy to face us.”

Quinn wasn’t involved … really. Zimmerman was sent to Hagerstown to begin his rehab process to return to the Nationals. Harper has been here all year.

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Still, it was a dangerous combination, especially in a critical game. But Haines was concerned about Hagerstown’s lineup even without Zimmerman.

“I got the lineup and assumed Zimmerman would bat third and Harper fourth (which they did),” Haines said. “But then they had the bottom half of the order which has got much better than when we saw them a couple of weeks ago. They had about the best lineup they could put on the field for that game … I was a little disappointed when Harper had to leave the early. It would have been exciting.”

Last Sunday’s monster lineup was reduced in the first inning when Greensboro starter Jheyson Manzueta hit Harper on the inside of the left knee, forcing him to leave the game. Zimmerman, though, came ready to hit and went 2-for-2 with an RBI and two runs.

“We approached the game from the point that it was a great opportunity here. Your chance to pitch on TV was here,” Haines said. “We wanted him to pitch to each side of the plate to Zimmerman and Harper, and he did. He needs to learn how to control it better.”

In the end, the Suns claimed a 6-5 victory, but the experience of playing against Zimmerman was worth it for Greensboro, too.

“When you see (major leaguers) play here, it’s great for both teams,” Haines said. “Sometimes the minor league guys feel separated and forgotten, riding the bus while they are flying. It is great when they come down here and show them what they are working for.”

By the way, Haines thought about getting even with Quinn.

“I thought about calling the Marlins to see if Josh Johnson was ready for a rehab start,” he said.

Suns Spots

* Blake Kelso is human. After a quiet hot streak — muffled by all the attention paid to Harper — put him among the league leaders in hitting, the Suns third baseman hit a snag. He went in an 0-for-14 slump until he collected a single in the fourth inning of Friday’s 6-5 win over Delmarva. He finished with three hits and raised his average to .338.

* Suns starting pitching has been outstanding in June. The starters are 4-1 with a 2.82 ERA. They are averaging 6 1/3 innings a start and have allowed 43 hits and 16 walks while striking out 51 in 51 innings.
The bullpen has struggled, though, posting a 1-3 record with a 6.88 ERA. The pen has allowed 26 earned runs on 52 hits in 34 innings. It has combined for 38 strikeouts and three saves in that span.

* Shortstop Jason Martinson has been on a tear. He has a hit in seven of the last eight games, going 9-for-31 (.290) with three doubles, a triple, a homer and four RBIs.

* Randolph Oduber is 8-for-24 (.333) in six games since returning from a hamstring injury.

Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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