PCL baseball: Matt Long helping injured Bees at second base
It's not the hot liners to his side that Matt Long worries about. It's not the high pop-ups whose paths twist in the wind.
It's the ground balls that come straight his way. The Bees second baseman has a split second longer to feel anxiety, to hope he doesn't make a mistake.
"Those are the toughest ones for me to field because I have time to think," he said. "When I have to move and be athletic, I usually make the play a little cleaner. It's just repetition: Getting those routine plays more and more and getting back into playing there every day."
The 26-year-old is not unfamiliar with the position in fact, he was the Bees' second baseman for most of last year. But during this homestand, which added a 6-3 Bees loss to Omaha on Sunday afternoon, Long is manning the middle infield for the first time all season.
He's played the capable outfielder this year for the Bees, running down fly balls instead of infield grounders. But with an injury to Luis Rodriguez in the past week, the club has needed him to fill in again.
That means a whole new set of concerns: base runners, double plays, backing up throws. Long takes it in stride.
"I'm glad I have the opportunity to get back in there so I can keep second base clean and keep that in my back pocket," he said. "The transition hasn't been as bad as I thought; it's been smoother than I expected."
In the defeat, Long showed his capabilities there, turning a double play and fielding multiple grounders cleanly for easy outs. He also has range to make plays in shallow outfield, as he showed by hunting down five pop-ups that hovered over right field.
Although manager Keith Johnson wishes he had one of his best outfielders playing his natural position, Long is the best answer for a team shorthanded by personnel moves and injuries.
"I feel comfortable with him there, I feel confident," Johnson said. "He turned a nice double play for us there today. He makes the routine play."
The Angels received second baseman Grant Green in a trade last week, assigning him to Salt Lake, but the organization is trying to see if the big-bodied slugger can make it as a third baseman. MLB veteran and 11-time Golden Glove winner Omar Vizquel was with the organization this weekend to help Green adjust, but Long has reaped some benefits as well.
"He's a wealth of information, he's a legend," Long said. "Anytime you can have that much information at your disposal, it helps no matter what." We've done some early work and we've talked between innings about some little stuff. He's been a huge help."
Drafted by the Angels in 2009, Long is still waiting for his first call up to the majors. If he makes the big leagues, it's likely as an outfielder. But it never hurts to be versatile.
"The ability the outfield as good as he does and play second base definitely adds value to him, whether its for the big league club or just here as a player," Johnson said.
Owlz 3, Rockies 1 • In Grand Junction, Colo., Ryan Dalton hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning to lift Orem to the Pioneer League win.
Chukars 12, Raptors 3 • Host Idaho Falls tallied 18 hits in its rout of Ogden.
Storylines Storm Chasers 6, Bees 3
R Salt Lake gets 13 hits but strands 12 runners.
• Salt Lake's Grant Green goes 4-for-5 with a double and three singles.
•Â The Bees' Jarrett Grube struggles in his start, walking six in 31â3 innings.