Grizzlies All-Stars Susac, Hembree look for strong first-half finish

The Fresno BeeJuly 8, 2014 

Fresno Grizzlies' Andrew Susac swings the bat during the game against the Sacramento River Cats on July 8, 2014. The Grizzlies won, 14-2

MARK CROSSE — THE FRESNO BEE Buy Photo

Andrew Susac has twice been on the disabled list and suffered through a June swoon that saw his average dip more than 40 points.

But the Fresno Grizzlies catcher is enjoying a strong finish to the first half of the Pacific Coast League season.

Susac, one of two Grizzlies named last week to the PCL team for the Triple-A All-Star Game, is hitting .376 through seven games in July, including a 2-for-4, two-run performance Tuesday in Fresno's 14-2 victory over Sacramento at Chukchansi Park. Right-hander Heath Hembree was the other Grizzlies representative for the July 16 game that will be televised by the MLB Network from Durham, N.C.

"I'm excited to get over to Durham and hang out there for three days, see the best talent in Triple-A right now and see where I fit among them," Susac said. "It's really cool to be chosen to go over there and be one of the guys to participate in it."

Susac, 24, was an Eastern League All-Star last season while playing for Double-A Richmond and finished the season with a .256 batting average, 12 home runs and 46 RBIs.

The No. 11 prospect in the San Francisco Giants farm system, as rated in the offseason by Baseball America, got off to a quick start in his debut Triple-A campaign, hitting .291 with two homers and nine RBIs in 16 games before going on the disabled list for 16 days with a concussion.

Susac returned May 8 and hit .302 with four homers and 11 RBIs in his next 13 games before pulling a hamstring, prompting a 15-day trip to the DL. He hit .203 in 17 games in June after recovering from the hamstring injury, a cold stretch that sapped 41 points off his batting average.

"It's been pretty tough mentally with the concussion and the hamstring," said Susac, who is now hitting .276 with eight homers and 27 RBIs. "Seems like every time I get hot and consistent at the plate, something goes wrong with my body. But we'll see. I feel pretty good about my first half and it's not over yet. I'm looking to finish strong."

Susac hopes to sustain his current good health through the second half.

"I'm feeling great right now," Susac said. "I'm just looking forward to making good strides and bettering myself as a player. I'm hoping to take this team to a championship. You never know. In this league, a couple good weeks and we could be in it."

Hembree has made the Triple-A All-Star team for the second time in his three seasons with the Grizzlies, also getting selected but not being able to play because of injury in 2012. He was a Cal League All-Star in 2011 for Class-A San Jose.

"It's an honor to participate in the game," said Hembree, who expects his mother, father, sister and a few other family and friends to make the roughly three-hour trip from his hometown of Spartanburg, S.C., to watch the game. "It's something I'm looking forward to. It's going to be fun."

Hembree, who made nine appearances as a September call-up with the Giants in 2013 after saving a franchise-record 31 games for Fresno, is 1-2 with 15 saves (second best in the PCL) and a 3.93 ERA in 35 games this season. He has 39 strikeouts and 10 walks in 341/3 innings.

"I just want to keep pitching, keep learning and be consistent and develop myself," Hembree said. "I feel really good about where I'm at right now. This is the best I've felt all year. I'm just going to try and ride that out."

 

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6103, nickg@fresnobee.com or @NickG_FB on Twitter.

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