Hawks have replacement plan for Bryant

Jordan Hankins returns to the hot corner and picks up where his predecessor left off.

clangrill@idahostatesman.comAugust 14, 2013 

— There’s no doubt first-round draft pick Kris Bryant made a positive impact in his short time with the Boise Hawks.

Bryant hit .354 with four home runs and 16 RBIs in 18 games before getting called up to High-A Daytona.

But it was back to the diamond Tuesday night for Boise, and the team’s focus hasn’t changed.

“We’re in a race to compete in the playoffs,” Jordan Hankins said.

Hankins was playing third base on a regular basis prior to Bryant’s arrival, and he was back at the hot corner Tuesday.

“He’s been very patient, and he knows how it works,” manager Gary Van Tol said. “I know he’s excited to get back into the lineup.”

Hankins channeled that excitement by going 3-for-5 with an RBI double and a run in Boise’s 12-1 win over the Eugene Emeralds.

Van Tol’s message to Hankins prior to the game was clear.

“No one is looking at him to be Kris Bryant,” he said. “He just needs to be himself.”

This summer wasn’t the first time Bryant and Hankins were teammates.

“We played for Team USA last summer together, and there’s a little competitiveness at practice every day taking routine ground balls and hitting,” Hankins said. “You can learn a lot watching a ballplayer like that. It pushes you that much more.”

Still, Van Tol’s message came through loud and clear.

“You don’t change a thing,” said Hankins, who came into Tuesday with a .241 batting average and seven RBIs in 31 games. “Go out there and make the routine plays and the fundamental plays and have good at-bats. Everything else will take care of itself.”

Fellow infielder Danny Lockhart concurred. “I think we’re going to be fine without that one big bat because we’re all swinging the bat well right now,” he said.

Boise leads the Northwest League with a .271 batting average. And while no individual will be asked to fill the void Bryant left, the Hawks are on the verge of getting a key component back. Shawon Dunston Jr. hasn’t played since he was injured July 21, a few days before Bryant joined the Hawks.

“He’s close (to returning),” Van Tol said, adding that he thought Dunston Jr. would see playing time this week.

Dunston Jr. went 4-for-5 on July 21 to boost his batting average to .328, and the athletic outfielder leads the Hawks with six stolen bases.

Additionally, catcher Cael Brockmeyer rejoined the Hawks on Tuesday after spending last week with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. Brockmeyer was batting .309 prior to his promotion, and his time with Iowa should only boost his confidence level.

And if Tuesday’s big win is any indication, the Hawks are well equipped to thrive without Bryant. “Even though we’ve had some changes in our roster, anytime I’ve put the lineup together guys have responded,” Van Tol said.

NOTES: Boise’s 12 runs were a season high. It was the third time in the past four games the Hawks (32-25 overall, 11-8 second half) belted out 15 hits. … Yasiel Balaguert hit his seventh home run to move into a tie for the league lead. … Outfielder Jacob Hannemann was sent to Mesa, Ariz., on Tuesday to rehab an injury. His return to the Hawks this season is doubtful.

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

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