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Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Sometimes the road to the big leagues leads somewhere close to home, even if only briefly.
For Taylor Grover, who is from North Augusta and graduated from Midland Valley High School and played collegiately at USC Aiken, his path included such a stop last weekend. A 10th-round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox in 2013, Grover played at Lake Olmstead Stadium as a member of the Class-A Greenville Drive against the Augusta GreenJackets.
Grover did not appear in Saturday’s game, a 6-5 comeback win for the GreenJackets.
“It’s fun because I get to see my family,” said Grover, who added that he played at Lake Olmstead with the Pacers against Augusta State. “It’s fun to play on the field again because it’s familiar.”
Simply playing minor-league ball for an affiliated club like the Drive is part of a goal Grover has had for several years now.
“As a freshman in college, I wanted to play professionally, but I didn’t know if that was a possibility,” he said, adding that he started taking his workout routine seriously at that point. “Ever since then, I just believed it would happen and just kept pressing.”
Since being called up to the Drive from the Lowell Spinners in mid-April, Grover already made an appearance in Augusta. In a 4-1 GreenJackets’ victory on May 2, Grover pitched three innings of scoreless relief with no hits or walks and struck out three batters.
The three innings were different from his role at USCA, where Grover made his name as a closer and worked primarily single innings. Seven of his last 10 outings for Greenville have been longer than an inning, though.
“It’s been different. I’ve been having to get used to throwing three or four innings,” he said. “My arm’s been great. I’ve just been having to get used to keeping the intensity up.”
Drive pitching coach Paul Abbott said that Grover has been “versatile,” capable of pitching in different roles and for varying numbers of innings.
“No signs that there’s any adjustment he’s made,” said Abbott, who pitched for 11 major-league seasons. “He just goes out there and pitches.”
That mindset has helped Grover turn in a 4.71 ERA with a save in 28? innings over 14 appearances so far this season for the Drive. He’s also notched 27 strikeouts and just seven walks, which is the second-best such ratio on the team’s current roster.