Alex Detz tried playing with the San Luis Obispo Blues once before.
Three games into the 2010 summer collegiate baseball season, the Cuesta College infielder and former Mission Prep standout dislocated his non-throwing shoulder during a game and ended up on the surgery table.
It had been a tricky joint. Repeat dislocations with the Royals led to Detz having labrum surgery the previous October, and he redshirted his first season with the Cougars that spring.
The short stint rightly could have been his only cup of coffee with the Blues, but with this season bearing down, manager Chal Fanning approached Detz about being a late roster addition.
Detz has become a staple at second base in the Blues lineup, and the move is paying off for the first-place team.
“I actually didn’t know where I was going to play up until two weeks before summer started,” Detz said after a 6-4 Blues victory Sunday completed a three-game nonleague sweep of the visiting Menlo Park Legends at SLO Stadium. “And then Chal just called me and got me on the team.”
With the one-year anniversary of that second surgery just days away, Detz is one of the team’s leading hitters. And as a player looking to improve his defense before he returns to Cuesta for his sophomore season, he’s playing alongside a fielder that Fanning already ranks as one of the franchise’s best 10 games into his tenure.
In 18 starts, Detz is fourth on the Blues (20-6, 13-6 California Collegiate League) with a .313 batting average and, with 20 hits, is tied for second on the team with catcher Jo Jo Sharrar, who was 2 for 3 with a run and two RBI on Sunday.
Detz went 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI as well. He is coming off a redshirt freshman season at Cuesta where he was second on the team with a .342 average, scored 27 runs and drove in 28 in 34 games.
“The main thing is when you get a JC guy with upper-level guys, you don’t know how they’ll handle things,” Fanning said, “and he just holds his own.
“He’s been handling Division I pitching. The main thing we want to continue to work with him on is his defense. He’s got to keep improving there,” he said.
Detz gets a close-up view of dynamic shortstop Adam Frazier, an SEC All-Freshman selection who has come on strong while joining the Blues late after his Mississippi State team made it to the NCAA Division I Super Regionals.
In only 10 games, Frazier — who was 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI against the Legends — leads the team with a .382 batting average and .475 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot.
But that’s only half the story with Frazier, who platoons with Chad Christensen and Tanner Witt.
“It’s really enjoyable to watch him play,” Fanning said. “Not to take away from any of the guys we’ve had in the past or Chad Christensen, Witt and those guys, but he’s probably our best defender, and he might be the best we’ve had up the middle.”
Frazier made a couple of eye-popping plays among his team-high four assists against Menlo Park (15-10), whom the Blues had trouble putting away.
San Luis Obispo was up 4-1 entering the seventh inning, when the Legends put a run on the board. The Blues responded with two in the bottom half, but Menlo Park matched that effort in the top of the eighth to keep pace.
Only Kyle Martin, who notched his second save of the summer with a scoreless ninth, seemed able to cool off the Legends late in the game.
“It was just a dogfight,” said Menlo Park catcher Tommy Pluschkell, who redshirted at Cal Poly this past season and came through with a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth. “We both battled out there. Both teams got clutch hits when they needed them, a lot of two-out hits and two-out runs.”
Pluschkell’s Mustangs teammates — brothers Chris and Michael Hoo — each scored a run for the Legends.
But ending a stretch where they’ve played 19 games in 20 days, the Blues remain on a roll.
They next sandwich days off around a Tuesday doubleheader with CCL foe Glendale before hosting the Rawlings California Cup Tournament at SLO Stadium beginning Thursday.
With four weeks left in the season, San Luis Obispo’s double-play combination is certainly getting more comfortable, and it reflects the team’s confidence as a whole.
Detz is “a good player,” Frazier said. “I like playing with him. I think he’s got a chance to go somewhere after Juco.
“I feel like we’ve got a pretty good team. Everybody likes each other, and we’ve got a pretty good chemistry.