Early returns on Gregorius impressive; D-backs see even higher ceiling thanks to skill, intangibles.
By JACK MAGRUDERFS Arizona
PHOENIX -- It may be a rush to judgment, but why not?
Didi Gregorius’ first nine days can be seen as instant justification for the Trevor Bauer trade last winter.
Gregorius homered on the first pitch he saw in his first at-bat April 18, hustled two doubles out of Giants left fielder Andres Torres the last two days and brought a six-game hitting streak into his first home game with the Diamondbacks on Thursday against the Rockies.
The only thing missing was walkup music, since Gregorius opened on the road, and he took care of that Thursday by selecting Notorious B.I.G. to announce his plate presence.
It fits to a T.E.E.
“I heard several people say they were surprised. Don’t be surprised. He was well-scouted,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Gregorius' start.
Gregorius, 23, was held out of the lineup Thursday after starting the previous four games as the D-backs remain cautious about the right elbow injury that caused him to spend spring training as a DH.
D-backs general manager Kevin Towers dropped a Derek Jeter comparison when the roundly panned trade was announced last winter, and Gregorius has done nothing to dispute that, hitting .400 with four doubles and two solo home runs in his first 20 at-bats.
Gregorius smiled when asked about the Jeter comparison Thursday.
“I didn’t pay attention to it. He (Towers) told me. Everybody has their own opinion. I wouldn’t go around saying, 'I’m this, I’m that.' I just want to play the game as hard as I can. Try to give 100 percent or more than 100 percent every time I play,” he said.
His teammates have quickly become believers, citing Gregorius’ intangibles as well as well as his athletic ability.
“I hate comparisons, but Didi is good,” veteran Eric Chavez said.
“He can swing the stick really well. He’s a good defensive guy. We’ve only seen him a short time. Nobody saw him (in spring training), so nobody knew what he could do. Offensively ... his hand-eye coordination. the way he stays in against left-handers. He’s gong to be a special player, for sure.”
Gregorius, 23, is likely to get at least semi-regular playing time while Aaron Hill remains on the disabled list, as Cliff Pennington or Martin Prado must play second base. After that, who knows? It is a game of production, and Gregorius already has shown that he can produce defensively in the major leagues.
Gibson said the hustle doubles in San Francisco stick with him. The first, leading off the 10th inning, started a game-winning rally in a 6-4 victory Tuesday.
“He busted his (butt) both times out of the box and made it. The second time, he surprised Pagan. He totally caught him by surprise. That’s what we want to do. Those are the things we worked on all spring,” Gibson said.
Said Gregorius: "You have to be aggressive, but smart, too.
"That’s what I was trying to do. I was going straight. Even on a popup to the infield, I will still hustle. You never know what is going to happen. Maybe he drops it and I will get in scoring position. Otherwise, I will look bad if he drops it and I’m standing on first instead of being on second.”