Grove Begins First Spring Training With Dodgers
Wheeling native excited to get back on the mound
WHEELING — There’s really never been a time when Michael Grove wasn’t excited to get onto the baseball field.
That level of excitement has swelled to the nth degree as he prepares for what lies ahead, starting today in Glendale, Ariz.
For the first time in nearly two full years, Grove — the Wheeling Park and West Virgina University product — has full clearance to play baseball. He will celebrate that by taking the field in Los Angeles Dodgers minor league spring training.
“I had been playing sports basically my whole life, so when I was out for 22 months, it was tough,” Grove said during a phone interview. “Sitting there and watching every day (during the college season) believing that you can help and contribute, but knowing you can’t is tough.”
Once the Mountaineers’ season ended, it was a waiting game for Grove. He visited with several clubs who had expressed an interest in the possibility of drafting him. However, it was the Dodgers that pulled the trigger with the 68th pick overall.
Grove was the Dodgers’ second-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and opted to sign the professional contract rather than return to play another season for the Mountaineers. The terms of the deal included a signing bonus of more than $1.2M which was more than $300K above the amount slotted for that pick.
“Baseball is now my job, but I still plan to approach the game the same way and try to have fun with it,” Grove said.
After he signed, Grove reported to the Dodgers’ extended spring facility in Glendale to continue his rehabilitation and throwing program.
“I am definitely familiar with the facility,” Grove said with a laugh.
As he progressed through the offseason, Grove gained medical clearance that he was 100 percent healthy and the Dodgers “treated him like a healthy pitcher.”
“I was on the same (throwing and training) plan as everyone else,” Grove said. “I am fully up to speed now and looking forward to getting thrown in there and see what happens.”
Grove, who finished his Mountaineers career with a 5-5 record, was in the middle of an outstanding season when he felt something in his elbow. Opponents were hitting just .174 against him in 2017. He had worked 29 innings and struck out 61.
How long it takes him to get back into that kind of groove remains to be seen and Grove isn’t putting a timetable on it.
“I really only have a small sample size (since the injury) becaue I’ve only been (throwing) live for about a month and it’s more about getting the feel back and locating pitches,” Grove said. “I am excited to get into some real games and find my own rhythm.”
Mechanically, Grove likes where he is. He pointed out that he’s developing a change up, which will be a focus this spring.
“I am really not worried about numbers in terms of record and that kind of thing,” Grove said. “My focus is really about how I feel and my durability. I am going to be learning as I go with this, but I hope to feel a little bit better each week and with each start.”
Grove, who arrived in the greater Phoenix area for camp Jan. 20, is expecting to be sent to Class A ball when spring training finishes. But, whether or not he goes to high A or low A will be determined in camp.
“I am assuming it’ll be high A, but there are no guarantees,” Grove said.
The Dodgers high A affiliate is the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in Southern California, while the low A affiliate is the Grake Lakes Loons in Midland, Mich.
Regardless of where he ends up, Grove isn’t going to rush the process.
“I don’t look too far into the future,” Grove said. “This year, it’s about staying healthy, playing the entire season and kind of getting everything working.”
Having said that, however, Grove did point out that competitive juices could very likely take over once when he gets on the mound.
“I know it’s about how I feel, but I am competitive and I want to (pitch) well,” Grove said. “But, I also know I can’t let that define the season. It’s been forever since I’ve really pitched meaningful innings.”