DAYTON — When DiDi Gregorius returned to the clubhouse after delivering his game-winning single in the 11th inning Thursday, April 8, he already had a text message waiting.
“From my mom,” the first-year Dayton Dragon said. “She said, ‘Nice game. Keep playing like that, and you’ll be good.’ ”
The Gregorius family had listened to the opener on the Internet from Curacao, rejoicing when the fourth of DiDi’s hits dropped into left field for a season-opening 6-5 win over the Lansing Lugnuts.
Gregorius finished the night 4-for-6. He flashed gap power with a triple up the alley, showed speed by beating out an infield hit and handled everything hit to him at shortstop. As individual Midwest League debuts go, veteran observers agreed it had to rank with any in the Dragons’ 11-year history.
“I was just so happy that we won,” said Gregorius, who followed that effort by going 0-for-5 Friday and misplaying a pop-up. “I feel more relaxed now. My goal is to get two hits a game. Why not be confident?”
Hitting instructor Ken Griffey Sr. said the 6-foot-1 Gregorius reminds him of a “tall Pokey Reese,” which is fitting since Gregorius said he grew up emulating the slick-fielding former Cincinnati Reds infielder.
“DiDi’s a very aggressive hitter,” Griffey said. “He makes contact and understands how to use the barrel of the bat. He’s going to have the pop to hit 10-15 home runs.”
Gregorius batted .314 with one homer in 50 games at Billings last season. He spent 22 games at high-A Sarasota (Fla.) as an injury fill-in, batting .254.
Shane Carlson started at third base for the Dragons in place of Frank Pfister, who went 0-for-5 in the opener. Efrain Contreras was in left field after Alex Oliveras had drawn the opening-night nod and gone hitless.
“It’s not a good feeling to be on the bench too long,” Dayton manager Todd Benzinger said in explaining the moves. “It’s their chance to kind of get the kinks out.”
Andrew Means, the fleet-footed former football player, had his streak of successful stolen-base attempts snapped at 26 as a pro when thrown out attempting to swipe third in the first inning.
Means had been 20-for-20 as a Dragon dating to last season. In 2008, he stole six at Billings without being caught.
Only in A ball
While loosening up in the outfield with a few practice swings about a half hour before the game, Lansing outfielder Eric Eiland accidentally flung his bat into the right-field stands, sending startled fans scattering. An usher retrieved the lumber after it came to rest and kindly gave it back.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2408 or smcclelland@DaytonDailyNews.com.
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