Ramon Flores admitted he was a tad overeager to notch his first base hit of 2015, but he got it out of the way early in impressive fashion and ended up making history to boot.
"I was just a little anxious about trying to get my first hit of the season," he said. "A home run was a good one."
The Yankees' No. 25 prospect followed up the roundtripper by hitting for an Opening Day cycle as Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre beat visiting Syracuse, 8-3, on Thursday. He finished the game 4-for-4 with three runs scored, two RBIs and a walk.
"I wasn't expecting to cycle on Opening Day," the 23-year-old said. "I was trying to help the team win -- in all those at-bats, I was just looking for good balls to hit. But I am happy it happened."
Flores became the first player to hit for the cycle for the franchise since it became a Yankees affiliate in 2007. Brennan King singled, doubled, tripled and homered in that order for the Phillies-affiliated Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons against Toledo on July 14, 2006, and Jon Zuber did it at Columbus on May 1, 1997.
After the Chiefs pushed a run across against RailRiders starter Bryan Mitchell in the top of the first inning, Flores evened the score by taking No. 3 Nationals prospect A.J. Cole deep in the bottom half. He saw six pitches in the at-bat.
"I was trying to hit a good pitch, so I thought I may have to get deep in the count," Flores said. "I saw one middle-in."
The very next inning, the 2008 signee out of Venezuela slapped a run-scoring infield hit. Facing Cole a third time, he tripled on a line drive to right-center field to open the fifth.
Flores walked with one out near the start of a three-run RailRiders rally in the seventh, but he came up again in the next inning with one out and Eddy Rodriguez on second. Rodriguez moved to third on a wild pitch by Chiefs reliever Manny Delcarmen, and Flores tried to deliver a sacrifice fly.
"I was thinking about [the cycle] a little bit before in the dugout," he admitted, but after Rodriguez got to third, "I was just thinking about driving the ball in the middle of the field with a fly ball to drive in the run."
Instead, the left-handed hitter ripped a ground ball up the right-field line. Not that Flores had any complaints.
"I was excited. It was the first cycle of my career, I was very happy to be able to do that," he said, remembering he fell a triple shy of the cycle for Class A Charleston on April 13, 2011. "This time, I got it done."
Flores, who missed nearly three months of last season with an ankle sprain, but played in 56 games in the Venezuelan Winter League, saw a total of 27 pitches over his five plate appearances.
"That's something I work on a lot. I like to see a lot of pitches and get a good pitch to hit and drive the ball," he said. "That's something I learned in Winter Ball -- every at-bat, the bottom line is getting the right pitch to hit."
He batted .347 with a .435 on-base percentage during that offseason stint, and his focus on pitch selection has paid off so far in 2015.
Rob Refsnyder, ranked fifth in the Yankees system, went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a walk, and the team's No. 18 prospect, Tyler Austin, had three RBIs.
Nick Rumbelow fanned one and walked one over 1 2/3 innings of relief for the win. Righty Jose Ramirez struck out two in a perfect ninth.
For Syracuse, Cole allowed two runs -- one earned -- on eight hits over five innings. He struck out three without giving up a walk. Felipe Rivero was tagged for three runs on three hits and a walk over 1 1/3 innings for the loss.