Cody Asche says the learning process is one of his favorite parts of being a Minor Leaguer. Wednesday night, the Philadelphia prospect used one such lesson to spur on one of the best games of his career.
Facing Pawtucket knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, Asche tied a Triple-A Lehigh Valley record with five hits, including a home run, on a four-RBI night in the IronPigs' 9-4 victory over the Red Sox.
The key adjustment for Asche? Not as complicated as you might suspect.
"You have to dumb it down for yourself," Asche said about facing the knuckler. "You dumb down your swing and your mind-set. Just see it and hit it."
The hitting wasn't much of a problem for the Phillies' No. 9 prospect Wednesday. His performance marked the fourth time an IronPig recorded five hits, the last time occasion was Kevin Frandsen against Louisville on May 21, 2012. The performance also tied a personal best as Asche also had five hits with Class A Advanced Clearwater on June 14, 2012 against Tampa.
The 23-year-old belted his first home run since June 16, taking Haeger's first-pitch offering over the right-field wall for a two-run shot in the third. Asche hit just three homers in June, but the self-proclaimed "gap hitter" has plenty to his game beyond the long ball.
June was actually a breakout month for the third baseman and showed signs that he was making quick adjustments in his first go at Triple-A. The left-handed hitter batted .318 with a .392 on-base percentage and .896 OPS in June. The performance was a nice turnaround after he hit .264 in April and .267 in May, and his success has continued with a .342 average through 10 games in July.
"It's just a matter of bearing down in each at-bat," Asche said. "I'm not giving away as many at-bats as I was early in the year. Once you get more experience and get your feet under you, you can focus more on what you want to do, get comfortable with your swing.
"You put yourself in a position to get good at-bats game in and game out. You go up there with that approach and mind-set, and the results will come, but you have to keep the same focus. Hopefully you can keep rolling with that."
Asche had only stepped in against one other knuckleballer this season when the team faced then-PawSox knuckler Steven Wright. Recalled by Boston to the Major Leagues on Wednesday, Wright struck Asche out twice and retired him once via groundout in Pawtucket's 5-1 win over Lehigh Valley on April 9.
Asche got three of his hits Wednesday off Haeger, including singles in the first and fourth.
"You can't really have too much of an approach against those guys," Asche said. "You don't know what you'll get. You go pitch by pitch. Those guys can throw you a real nasty knuckleball, then come with a fastball, and this guy had a curveball too. You have to be ready to swing."
With Michael Young, 36, currently playing third base in Philadelphia, Asche's ascension to the Major Leagues may not be far away. Young is only signed through the end of the 2013 season.
The 23-year-old has been a consistent performer in Philadelphia's farm system since beginning his first full season of pro ball in 2012. The 2011 fourth-round Draft pick struggled in 68 games in the short-season New York-Penn League after signing, but came out of the gates firing in 2012. He hit .349 in 62 games with Clearwater, then followed that with a .300 average and .873 OPS in 68 Double-A games in the second half.
With the situation in Philadelphia likely to dictate his role the rest of 2013 and beyond, Asche's focus is on day-to-day business for Lehigh Valley.
"That's what makes the learning process fun in the Minor Leagues," he said. "You will get something different every night, get something different every day. You come to the park with that mind-set, to take something away from every game. That's how you put yourself in a position to have success and keep advancing."
Lehigh Valley shortstop Freddy Galvis smacked his second home run and plated three.
Boston's top prospect Xander Bogaerts hit his sixth homer for Pawtucket. The shortstop prospect played third base and is hitting .268 through 27 games at Triple-A.