Fresno Grizzlies catcher Andrew Susac back in swing after injury issues

The Fresno BeeJune 13, 2014 

Fresno 's Andrew Susac takes a swing during the Grizzlies' game against Reno on April 19, 2014, at Chukchansi Park.

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Andrew Susac stretched his hamstrings a few extra times before Friday's game, just as a precaution.

The Fresno Grizzlies starting catcher and highly regarded San Francisco Giants prospect has experienced tightness twice this season — a problem severe enough the second time that he landed on the disabled list for two weeks.

"I feel like 100% again," Susac said before going 0 for 4 in an 11-inning, 7-6 loss to Omaha at Chukchansi Park.

The Grizzlies and Giants want to keep Susac in tip-top form. Not just to enhance Fresno's chances in the Pacific Coast League race, but to allow full evaluation of the 24-year-old and what he needs to improve upon to reach the majors.

The organization already knows that Susac, a second-round draft pick in 2011, can hit and throw out runners.

In the 31 games he has played, Susac has hit six home runs with a .276 average. And he has nailed 11 of 20 would-be base stealers.

The ex-Oregon State star hit .256 with 12 homers in 84 games at Double-A Richmond last year.

"You reach double digits in Richmond in the Eastern League, you've got some serious power," Grizzlies manager Bob Mariano said, "And to me, Susac has just as much power as (Giants regular catcher) Buster Posey."

What Mariano and many in the San Francisco organization want to see more of is how well he can call a game and block balls in the dirt behind the plate. That's been more difficult to gauge with Susac missing for one reason or another more than half of the Grizzlies' 69 games this year.

In addition to the hamstring issues, he also was out for a while because of a concussion after taking a foul tip off his mask.

"It's been a frustrating year because I feel like I'm becoming who I want to be as a player, making the right strides," Susac said. "But these injuries, especially the hamstring because it seems like such a small thing, it's annoying because it's been bugging me for a while."

Susac entered this season considered the Giants' No. 13 prospect. But some scouts had been so impressed early on, there were new projections that he could join the Giants within a year.

Sure, there is an All-Star in front of him in Posey. But the Giants would have the option of moving their franchise player to a corner infield spot.

Susac made slight adjustments to his hitting approach in the offseason that apparently have paid off. He worked with Giants hitting coordinator Steve Decker, himself a former major league catcher, to simplify his swing.

"It's made a world of a difference," Susac said. "I'm confident at the plate. I'm seeing the ball deeper. It gets my hands in the right position before launching for contact every time."

Susac acknowledged he must work more on his ability to call games to prove he is fully worthy of a promotion. That includes awareness and understanding of game situations, his pitching staff and the batters they face.

The Grizzlies, after Friday, fell to 14-15 with a 4.70 ERA in 243 1/3 innings with Susac behind the plate. By comparison, they are 22-18 with a 4.28 ERA in 372 1/3 innings with their other catchers.

"That's the separator between the big league catchers and the Triple-A guys," Susac said. "And you really only get better at calling games through experience.

"That's something I'm still working on. I'm just excited to be back in the lineup right now, though."

 

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6362, bjanteola@fresnobee.com or @Banteola_TheBee on Twitter.

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