Garin Cecchini has a strong opinion on what teammate Keury De La Cruz can do at the plate, and even as the latter has struggled this season, Cecchini maintained how important it's been to have the left-handed bat backing him in the Salem lineup.
"I think De La Cruz is an unbelievable hitter," Cecchini said.
De La Cruz's final line Monday enabled Class A Advanced Salem to sweep Winston-Salem. Boston's No. 15 prospect piled up four hits and five RBIs over the two games as the Red Sox nabbed 5-4 and 6-3 victories.
The outfielder went 2-for-3 with four of those RBIs in the opener, two of which came on a bases-loaded triple in the bottom of the first inning. After a single by Deven Marrero, Nick Natoli was hit by a pitch and Cecchini reached on a fielding error by first baseman Rangel Ravelo. De La Cruz promptly laced a line drive into right field and scooted safely to third.
He added the fourth RBI on a sacrifice fly that scored Matthew Gedman in the fourth and added a single in the sixth.
De La Cruz was also the hero in the nightcap, snapping a 4-4 tie in the fifth with an RBI double. He later scored on Henry Ramos' single to right field.
The four RBIs in Game 1 were the most since April 23 for the left-handed hitter, who has had a rocky season. He entered the night hitting .239 with a .661 OPS. Those numbers are similar to what he posted in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League in 2011 when he was dealing with a pull-heavy approach.
De La Cruz rebounded with a breakout season in 2012 at Class A Greenville, where he finished first in the Red Sox's organization in RBIs (81), second in homers (19) and third in slugging percentage (.535) while posting a .308 average in 116 games.
He's shown the ability to rebound from tough stretches at the plate, and at moments, seemed on the cusp of a breakout this season. He recorded four multi-hit games in a six-game span from May 12-17 and doubled in three straight games from May 23-25.
Since that time, the 21-year-old was just 5-for-33 with one extra-base hit and two RBIs prior to Monday.
The native of La Romana, Dominican Republic, raised his average from .239 to .251. Cecchini, a teammate for the past three seasons, knows what De La Cruz is capable of and thinks he's close to returning to his "unbelievable" 2012 form.
"He drove balls like no other last year," Cecchini said. "This year, he's hitting balls hard. They're just going right to people. He's had some bad luck.
"Today he showed how good a hitter he is, and it's awesome to have guy like that hitting behind you."
Cecchini had a quality day himself, drawing a pair of walks and scoring a run in the first game and going 2-for-2 with two RBIs and two runs in the nightcap. Boston's No. 8 prospect raised his average to .364 and has drawn 35 walks while striking out 27 times in 176 at-bats.
"If I don't think I can get a really good swing where I can drive the ball, I'm not going to swing at it," he said. "I think you learn and, you know, I'm still learning what pitches I feel like I can hit with backspin into the gap. It just takes time. That's a key here in the Minor Leagues. Time is on your side."
Top White Sox prospect Courtney Hawkins homered in his second game since returning from the disabled list Sunday. The 19-year-old center fielder, who was a first-round Draft pick by Chicago last year, has hit safely in all three games since coming off the disabled list.