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Shortstop Munoz stays hot for Osprey07/21/2013 7:03 PM ET
By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com
Like many a teenager, Joe Munoz left the nest thinking he knew it all.
A little over a year later, the D-backs' 2012 second-round Draft pick laughs at how much he had to learn.
"When I came in here for my first year, I thought I knew a lot about the game," the 19-year-old said. "No. I was like a newborn in the game."
The lessons and adjustments are coming hard and fast for the D-backs' No. 11 prospect, and his latest modification is proving quite fruitful. Not long after tweaking his batting stance, the shortstop is on a tear and he continued his torrid stretch Sunday with three hits and four RBIs in Rookie-level Missoula's 11-8 win over Idaho Falls.
One of Munoz's hits was a double, giving him five multi-base hits in his past three games. He's 9-for-15 in that time, including a home run and 11 RBIs.
The results have come quickly for the Los Altos (Calif.) High School product since altering his swing mechanics around the beginning of July.
The adjustment was a correction to another modification he'd made earlier in the year while recovering from injury. Munoz suffered a herniated disk in Spring Training, and he returned in time to play some games in extended spring training before the opening of the Pioneer League season. Upon his return, he changed his batting stance, holding his hands higher in what he said was an attempt to compensate for the herniated disk.
"I figured in my head, if I have my hands high, it would take me straight to the ball," he said. "What it was really doing was making me drop my hands then come up underneath the ball. I was getting jammed and popping balls up."
Munoz hit .161 in his first eight Pioneer League games sporting the new stance, and the look caught the eye of Mike Bell, the D-backs director of player development, when he stopped by Missoula.
"He asked me why I changed my stance," Munoz said. "I told him I didn't really know. I got hurt, and I just came back like this."
Munoz went back to his old stance and immediately started looking like the talent Arizona had sprung for in the second round last summer. The shortstop is hitting .362 in 15 games in July with four home runs -- he hit just two in 47 games last summer in the Arizona League.
He's been especially hot of late. Munoz went 4-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs in a 10-1 win over Ogden on Thursday, and he followed that by homering, doubling and plating three runs in a 14-10 loss to the Raptors. Munoz did not play Saturday, but picked up Sunday right where he left off with his 3-for-5 showing.
The shortstop struck out looking in his first at-bat against Idaho starter Luke Farrell with runners on second and third in the first inning. Munoz returned to face Farrell with runners on first and second in the third, and this time won the battle. Again facing a two-strike count, the infielder shortened up and lined a single into center field to plate Daniel Palka.
"My first at-bat, I was kind of thinking too much," Munoz said. "My second at-bat, I was back with two strikes and what I've been doing when I have two strikes, I've been choking up on the bat and moving up in the box and spreading my legs out a little farther, staying low to the ground and going into battle mode. I'm fouling off pitches if they're not good to hit, just trying to put something in play."
In the fourth inning, Idaho Falls pulled Farrell -- the son of Boston manager John Farrell -- and brought in Josiel Martinez with Munoz due to hit next. With men again at first and second, Munoz lined another single -- this time into right field -- again scoring Palka to give Missoula a 7-4 lead.
Munoz added a two-run double in the top of the sixth, then finished his day with a lineout to left in the top of the eighth.
Royals' first-round pick -- eighth overall -- Hunter Dozier homered in the ninth, finishing 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs. The shortstop out of Stephen F. Austin State now has three homers and a .279 batting average through 30 games with Idaho Falls.
Zane Evans, the Royals' fourth-round pick, also went yard in the ninth -- his first long ball as a professional. The Georgia Tech product is hitting .340 through 15 games.