Cody Asche knows a thing or two about slow starts.
So when the Lehigh Valley third baseman hit .162 in the first two weeks of the season, he didn't panic. And the IronPigs have been rewarded as Asche is batting .272 with eight homers and a team-high 43 RBIs in 71 games.
"I thought the move to [Triple-A] would be the same as the jump from High-A to Double-A, but it's different," Asche said. "There are some guys here who really know how to pitch and who know how to execute a game plan three times through a lineup."
The first time Asche struggled was in 2011, when he batted .192 in his first taste of pro ball with short-season Williamsport in the New York-Penn League. But the Phillies' fourth-round pick rebounded quickly and hit .349 with Class A Advanced Clearwater to start 2012, earning a promotion to Double-A Reading.
Things didn't go as smoothly in his first month with the Fightin Phils as he hit .163 over 86 at-bats. Then he took off, batting .369 with five homers and 26 RBIs in 31 games in August and finishing with a .300 mark, 10 homers and 47 RBIs.
"I felt I was pretty consistent in the Florida State League," Asche said. "Once I got bumped up to Reading, the Eastern League was a bit of a challenge at first. But I figured out a couple of things. Then I got moved into the second hole in front of [Darin] Ruf, and he got hot, then I got hot. And [August] was a pretty fun month."
Asche said the things he figured out were more physical than mechanical.
"By July, you kind of know your swing for the year," he said. "By that point, [hitting] is more of a mental thing: You weren't looking for the right pitch, you were overaggressive, things like that.
"When I got to Reading, I wanted to show people [I belonged] and tried to do a little too much. When I relaxed, I came into my own."
Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage likes the look of his third baseman, who turns 23 on June 30.
"He comes to play every day, but he comes to learn every day, and that's important," Brundage said. "He's so willing to learn, to get better, every day. He's willing to absorb information on a daily basis, and that along with his work ethic allows him to get better every day."
Brundage said he also likes the improvements Asche has made defensively. Asche committed eight errors in the first two months of the season but has been flawless in June.
"That was something he really needed to work on. He needed to work on backhanding the ball, getting to balls to his left," Brundage said. "He's very good on balls hit right to him.
"He's very athletic. There is a lot to like about his defense. He's made some errors, but he has corrected some things. Now you very rarely see him make the same mistake twice."
While there still may be work to do, Asche hasn't let his early struggles impede his development.
"I think he understands that every level is different," Brundage said. "There are more scouting reports and the information is more in-depth [at Triple-A]. And you have smarter pitchers. You have to go through the trials and tribulations before you get better. Sometimes you have to fail before you can succeed."
Johnson does it all: Indianapolis LHP Kris Johnson has been a versatile and valuable pitcher this month. He began June in the bullpen and earned two saves in four appearances before starting twice and allowing one run over 12 innings. This month, Johnson is 1-0 with a pair of saves and a 0.48 ERA, giving him overall numbers of 6-3 with two saves and a 2.82 ERA.
Bloom in June: Toledo entered this month with an IL-worst 18-38 record after going 7-20 in April and 11-18 in May. But the Mud Hens have turned things around in June, starting out 14-7. The key is an IL-best .288 team batting average that's a far cry from the .213 mark in April. It helps that Hens pitchers have a 3.69 ERA this month -- Toledo's 3.74 ERA this season ranks fourth in the 14-team league.
He said it: "All [Andy Loomis] has done is get everybody out. So now he's gone from the guy that came up to help out your bullpen a little bit to being a guy that's becoming very, very interesting." -- Tides manager Ron Johnson to The Virginian-Pilot. Loomis, a left-hander who was promoted to Norfolk on May 14 for what was supposed to be a "short stint," has not allowed an earned run in his last eight outings, a stretch of 17 innings that has lowered his ERA from 2.45 to 0.50.
He said it, part II: "Wins and losses don't matter that much down here [in Triple-A]. I just try to put a quality start up and give the team a chance to win. It's a cool honor to have that, but I try to execute pitches and not get caught up with the numbers." -- Bats RHP Greg Reynolds to the Louisville Courier-Journal on June 21. He threw a complete-game two-hitter to beat Rochester, 3-0, and improve to 9-0 while lowering his ERA to an IL-best 2.23. Reynolds became the first pitcher in Louisville history to begin a season with nine straight wins.