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Michael Grove To Start Tonight for Dodgers’ Double-A Affiliate

This is a 2021 photo of Michael Grove of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. This image reflects the Los Angeles Dodgers active roster as of Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021 when this image was taken. (Jennifer Stewart/MLB Photos via AP)

WHEELING — Wheeling Park grad and West Virginia University standout Michael Grove has been itching to get back on the mound in front of fans in a meaningful baseball game again.

Well, he gets that chance tonight.

Grove will take the hill for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate, the Tulsa Drillers, who host Amarillo at 8:05 p.m.

Grove’s last start came on Aug. 11, 2019 for L.A.’s Advanced Single-A affiliate, Rancho Cucamonga, where he struck out four in three innings.

His pitch count was still limited in 2019 after recovering from Tommy John Surgery in 2017, but now Grove will have a longer leash to showcase his talents.

“I start (tonight),” Grove said. “There will be some sort of pitch count in my first game but hopefully it’s around 65 or 75 — something like that. It’s been so long since I pitched a real game and I’m really looking forward to it.

“I kind of have the framework of my entire arsenal now, which I’ve been working really hard over the last several years to get to that point, so I have all the pitches I’m going to throw. Right now it’s just about refining them and being as consistent as possible. That will come with reps and games.”

In 21 games with Rancho Cucamonga, Grove struck out 73 hitters in just 51.2 innings to earn a spot on the Double-A squad this year.

“It’s been weird because it’s not a natural progression like getting called up or anything,” Grove said. “We took the entire last year off and I was at the alternate sight at USC working on stuff. This year you see a bunch of guys you haven’t seen in over a year and I was lucky enough to get in Double-A.

“I think everybody is just excited to play against a different team at this point.”

Grove also got to spend time with the Dodgers in Spring Training earlier this year, where he appeared in two games.

He tossed three innings with an ERA of 3.00. He allowed two hits, one run and earned a save against Oakland, striking out two hitters in the process.

Grove also got the opportunity to learn from several big league pitchers and coaches.

“It was really nice to be able to learn from some of the guys who have been there for a long time,” Grove said of his time with the Dodgers. “Just being around the coaches, too. The energy was really good.

“I played catch with various guys who are in the big leagues right now like Blake Treinen. I was talking to him about the slider and working on it with him. I was just playing catch and getting tips on what works for them and maybe it will work for me and trying to see how they think or how they attack guys. We had some conversations on the side here and there about what to do against this guy or what can this guy not hit. It was really exciting and definitely a good learning experience.”

The Drillers began their season on Tuesday in front of over 5,000 fans and although Grove didn’t enter the game, the feeling of being in a stadium with a crowd again was a great sense of normalcy.

“It was great,” Grove said. “I think it’s about 65 percent capacity out here and it’s a really nice ballpark with a great environment. It’s just nice to be back out there.”

According to MLB.com, Grove is the 22nd top prospect in the Dodgers’ deep and talented organization but he’s not focused on that right now.

“I’m not trying to look too far ahead,” Grove said. “In Double-A if you pitch well enough anything can happen from here. You just have to take it one start at a time and see where that takes you.”

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