Injuries have severely limited Keon Barnum in his first two years as a pro. Now that he's healthy, he's looking to show off the power that convinced the White Sox to select him 48th overall in the 2012 Draft.
The White Sox No. 7 prospect homered for the third time in four games, doubled and drove in a pair of runs Sunday afternoon in Class A Kannapolis' 7-6, 10-inning loss at Hickory.
After dealing with a right shoulder injury that limited him to 13 games last season, the 20-year-old Tampa native injured himself twice before he could make it out of his home state this year. He underwent right hand surgery in early March, then suffered a partially torn left knee ligament diving into third base as he rehabbed in extended spring training.
"I'm pretty good now, feeling good. There was a lot of rehab and digging to get through it, but I'm good now," said Barnum, who fell a triple shy of the cycle. "I'm getting back into a good groove, seeing the ball much better and showing better discipline at the plate."
Many hitters have trouble regaining their power after injuring their hamate bone, but Barnum appears to be bucking that trend.
"I feel like I recovered pretty quickly, it's 100 percent now," the 6-foot-5 left-handed slugger said. "I don't feel [the hamate issue] at all right now, it feels pretty good."
Barnum recorded his first multi-hit game of the season Sunday and has hit safely in five straight and eight of his last 10 games. He's been on a similar tear before, homering in both ends of a doubleheader on June 21, 2012 and blasting another longball the following day.
Barnum also went without a strikeout for only the second time in 18 games. He's fanned 29 times in 67 at-bats for Kannapolis after striking out 13 times in 43 at-bats last season for Rookie-level Bristol, where he had an .859 OPS.
"[Plate discipline] really is important," he said. "I think that's a big part of my success at the plate, not chasing pitches."
Barnum believes the strikeouts can be limited by going with pitches low and away and getting more at-bats after missing so much time.
"I was taking a lot of pitches, taking strikes and chasing bad pitches," he said. "I just wasn't in rhythm, wasn't locked in and seeing the ball. It takes time because I haven't really been playing that much."
Barnum's two-run blast in the seventh gave the Intimidators a 6-4 lead, but pinch-hitter Jordan Akins homered in the eighth and Ronald Guzman delivered an RBI single in the ninth to force extra innings. Rangers No. 18 prospect Nick Williams capped a three-hit day with a walk-off single in the 10th.
Jose Leclerc (2-4) picked up the win with three strikeouts in two scoreless innings.