The performance of Jeisson Rosario would have been notable no matter the backdrop, but mired in the worst slump of his brief career only highlighted the teenager's breakout act.
San Diego's No. 21 prospect hit an inside-the-park homer, three doubles and drove in two runs as part of a four-hit night to lead Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore past Visalia, 5-1, on Tuesday at The Diamond. That supported the best start of the season for MLB.com's No. 44 overall prospect Luis Patino (2-3), who allowed a run on two hits and two walks while striking out seven over a season-high six innings.
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Rosario, who entered the contest in a 3-for-41 skid over his last 10 games, matched a career high with his fourth career four-hit game -- his first since July 18 with Class A Fort Wayne. Largely a singles hitter through his first 198 career games, the outfielder notched his second game with two or more extra bases and first since July 7, 2018 with the TinCaps. Storm manager Tony Tarasco felt it was just a matter of time in a performance that was well earned.
"He got off to a decent start this year," the former Major Leaguer said. "He's a very talented athlete with a tremendous eye at the plate and gifted knowledge of the strike zone. Along with his lack of luck and lack of hits, I saw him beginning to expand the zone, which contributed to his struggles. But what I saw tonight was a reward for a struggling player who was making a real effort not to let it affect him night after night."
Following a strong debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2017, Rosario enjoyed a solid season in the Midwest League. As an 18-year-old, he batted .271/.368/.353 with 18 stolen bases and 79 runs scored in 117 games for Fort Wayne. He struggled after beginning the year as one of the younger players in the California League. Rosario raised his average 29 points to .205 on Tuesday after doubling to left field in the second inning, slicing an inside-the-park job down the left-field line in the fourth and then smacking two more doubles -- to left and then right -- in his last two at-bats.
"I've always been a big fan of Jeisson," Tarasco said. "I've got a special connection with him. I know how hard it is when you're young and struggling. You haven't been through enough to know how long it will last or if you've got the endurance to get past it. He squared a few [hits] up tonight, but it started with a seeing-eye hit. If he hits [the first double] two feet to the left, it's fielded, and he starts off with a bad night. You could see his confidence grow and his swing get better throughout."
2019 MiLB include
Patino snapped a three-game losing streak with his best outing of the season. He surrendered a run over five frames in his season debut on April 7, but posted a 5.54 ERA in his last four starts, yielding 11 hits and 11 walks in 13 innings. A few tweaks made during recent side sessions impressed his manager, who felt it played a direct role in his effort Tuesday.
"I liked what I saw from Patino," Tarasco said. "He eliminated some movement from his delivery after his last start and simplified it. [Storm pitching coach] Pete Zamora, who I call the "Pitching Whisperer," manages to get through to all our guys. Luis had the courage to go out and try something new in the game, which is something you don't often see in young kids. Even with older players, sometimes the simplest adjustments are the hardest things to do. He's got extraordinary stuff but that doesn't mean he needs to go out to pitch with [Greg] Maddux-like precision. He simplified things and did what good pitchers do."
Visalia starter Cole Stapler (2-3) surrendered four runs on eight hits and a walk and threw two wild pitches while striking out one in four innings.