ALTOONA, Pa. — Outfielder Robbie Grossman had a huge season with High-A Bradenton in 2011. The 22-year-old saw a break out year where he finished with a .294/.418/.451 line, with 34 doubles, 13 homers and 23 stolen bases over 134 games with the Marauders. Grossman became the first minor league player since Nick Swisher in 2004 to score at least 100 runs and walk at least 100 times in a single season. His 127 runs scored were the most by a minor leaguer since 2005. The outfielders huge season earned him Pittsburgh’s Minor League Player-of-the-Year award.
If that list of accomplishments wasn’t enough, Grossman was also named to the Arizona Fall League Top Prospects team in 2011, playing in the Rising Stars game. His AFL season was cut short due to fracturing his hamate bone in his right hand, but Grossman finished with a .375 clip, seven home runs and 22 RBI over the 26 games. Grossman also got the taste of his very first big league spring training camp this year, working with speedy outfielders Alex Presley and All-Star Andrew McCutchen.
The jump from high-A to Double-A is the toughest to make for a hitter. That jump has been an adjustment for Grossman, who has gotten off to a slow start with Double-A Altoona. Entering game action on Sunday, Grossman is hitting for a .222/.333/.319 line in 72 at-bats over 19 games.
“For me, it’s just the adjustment period,” Curve Manager P.J. Forbes said. “Getting familiarized with the strike-zone up here. I’m sure it was a little different [with High-A Bradenton]. There’s been some pitches that he’s taken that he thought were balls. He’s got to understand in those situations, with two strikes, you’ve got to fight those pitches off to live another day. I like that. He’s obviously done a ton of work this last week with [Hitting Coach Ryan Long] in the cage and on the field. Just to get him back to where he was last year. They’ve watched a lot of video and done some different drills, but that’s getting him where he needs to be.”
“It’s about him learning umpires and umpires learning him. If they recognize that he’s not going to swing at the ball that’s three inches off the plate, they shouldn’t call it a strike. It’s not on the plate. You always see it. Guys that are free swingers, that’s a bigger zone’s for umpires. Guys that will take pitches and work counts, they draw more walks and they don’t get as many strikes called on them. And I think that’s part of it.”
Having worked on a few mechanical tweaks, Grossman is seeing some better results at the plate. Although it’s a small sample size, over his last two games with Altoona, Grossman has gone 4-for-6 with three runs, a double, a RBI, two walks and two swiped bases. He’s also draw 11 walks in his last 13 games, after starting the first six games with no walks.
“It’s just some times things go your way,” Grossman said. “You’re going to struggle. It’s nice to see the hard work pay off. I’m just worried about tomorrow now.”
“Obviously there’s tweaks where we want to get him back to, that’s why we’re watching last years video with this years video,” Forbes said. “I think there is a minor adjustment. I know they’ve been working on a couple things.”
A part of it has been just trying to do too much at the plate, Grossman admitted to. The outfielder said he is working on making things more simpler at the plate.
“Just trusting my stuff. Not trying to do too much,” Grossman said “That’s what I was doing earlier in the season, just trying to do too much. Just trying to get back to being me.”