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Sports >  Spokane Indians

Chris Pieters helps Eugene to win over Spokane Indians

When Eugene Emeralds’ Chris Pieters started his minor league career as a pitcher, he would help shag balls during batting practice, just like every pitcher does. But deep down inside, he hoped someday he could be the one sending balls into the outfield.

He spent three seasons as a pitcher, posting a 9.56 ERA. After it didn’t work out on the mound, the Cubs transformed him into a position player. He couldn’t be more grateful.

“Growing up playing little league, I always liked hitting,” said Pieters, who went 2 for 3 with a pair of RBIs in Eugene’s 9-3 win over Spokane on Saturday at Avista Stadium.

Playing outfield and hitting was the favorite part of the game for Pieters growing up in Curacao, a small island country in the southern Caribbean and sovereign state of the Netherlands. But scouts sought after his pitching more than his hitting, and Pieters embraced it because making it the major leagues was his ultimate dream. He signed with Chicago in 2011 as a left-handed pitcher.

Signing a contract was the main goal, but he is happier playing in the field.

“That was really exciting, I was hyped when they told me I was going to hit my first BP,” said Pieters, who has played first base and outfield for the Emeralds. “I’m just grateful to get a second chance and prove I can do something with my bat.”

That happiness has also translated to success for Pieters, who is hitting .293 for Eugene this season. In Saturday’s win, his two-run double in the fifth inning, which he sent over the head of Indians’ speedy centerfielder Leody Taveras, opened up a three-run lead for the Emeralds and changed the course of the game.

“I think that was a great at-bat … we fell short with the first two hitters but then he came in and layed off two good breaking balls and then found a fastball and drove it well,” Emeralds’ manager Jesus Feliciano said. “I think that was the game right there.”

Pieter’s home country of Curacao has produced active major league players such as Jurickson Profar, Andrelton Simmons and Kelly Jensen. But it’s former Atlanta Braves great Andruw Jones who showed the country’s up-and-coming stars the blueprint for success.

“Back home, it’s a big thing to be a pro-ball player and all of us look up to Andruw Jones,” he said. “Andruw Jones opened the gates for us. He was the first one to have mad success at the big league level.”

Wladimir Guerro turned the game into a laugher in the ninth inning, as he ripped a first-pitch fast ball from Steven Bruce to left-center field to drive in three runs and push the Emeralds’ lead to six.

Charles LeBlanc had three hits, Anderson Tejeda was 2 for 4 with a home run and Todd McDonald had a pair of doubles to lead the Indians.

Galindo was 3 for 5 with four and Kevonte Mtichell was 3 for 5.

Tyler Peitzmeier earned his first win of the season, pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief and giving up one earned runs. Tyler Phillips was handed the loss, surrendering five runs and eight hits in five innings.

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