After going nearly 14 months between baseball games, Milwaukee's 2012 first-round pick Victor Roache anticipated it would take a while for his timing to return. But he wasn't thinking it'd take 50 games.
"It's been a long process," the 21-year-old said. "I never thought it would take this long to get my timing back, but it has."
Around the Midwest League All-Star break, the Brewers' No. 6 prospect rediscovered his power stroke, and he's been lighting up the league's pitchers since. Monday night, the outfielder drove that point home by belting a pair of home runs and collecting seven RBIs -- all in the first two innings -- of Class A Wisconsin's 10-9 loss to Dayton.
Roache became the second Timber Rattler to collect seven RBIs in a game, matching Kris Gundrum (May 28, 2000 at Dayton) and Carlos Peguero (June 15, 2007 at Cedar Rapids). The outfielder finished 2-for-3 with two walks, including an intentional pass in the top of the ninth.
Both of Roache's homers came off Dayton starter Sal Romano, and both were no-doubters off the bat. The first came with two on and two out in the first inning. Roache connected with a fastball and mashed it over the 381-foot sign in Fifth Third Field's left-center wall. The blast banked off the scoreboard that hangs over a concession area beyond the fence -- Timber Rattlers hitting coach Dusty Rhodes described it as a "mammoth blow."
Roache's next shot came on an off-speed offering from Romano. The right-handed hitter sat back and smacked a line drive toward a similar spot in left-center field. The ball whizzed just by the scoreboard, bouncing toward the fence separating the ballpark from its parking lot.
"He's a guy that has the kind of power that few guys have," Rhodes said. "You knew it was a matter of time."
Roache's struggled through much of the season's first half. The outfielder boasts tremendous raw power -- he led the NCAA in home runs as a Georgia Southern sophomore in 2011, slugging 30 round-trippers and setting himself up as a prime Draft candidate for 2012.
The outfielder's junior campaign was quashed before it could even begin, though, as he suffered a broken wrist in February and missed the entire college season. Despite the missed time, Milwaukee plucked Roache with the 28th overall pick last summer.
They held him out of game action until this spring, and despite homering in his first pro at-bat, the outfielder struggled in his initial go at professional baseball. The 21-year-old hit .209 with a .644 OPS in the first half of the season, collecting six homers and six doubles in 50 games. During that time, Roache said he had trouble seeing the ball well for more than a few at-bats in a row, and he rarely was able to replicate the approach that led to his success in college.
Since the All-Star break, he's felt like a different hitter and the results have reflected that. Thirty games into the second half, Roache has slugged eight homers with a .298 average and .908 OPS. Seven of those homers have come in July, when he's hitting .321 with a 1.037 OPS in 20 games.
The difference for Roache has been pitch recognition, and those improvements have been driven by two factors.
"I think part of it is repetition," he said. "I'm finally getting at-bats, and I'm feeling more confident in the box. I have an understanding of how the pitchers are pitching to me.
"I've also been tweaking my swing, keeping my front shoulder in and trying to land my front foot flat and square so I'm not spinning out with my front side. That's allowed me to see the ball better and make more consistent swings."
Roache worked with Rhodes extensively in his effort to snap out of the funk. The pair noticed around the All-Star break that Roache was bouncing on his left toe as he started his swing, rather than laying it down flat. Correcting that, in conjunction with some tweaks to his hand positioning, has helped him see pitches better and deliver the barrel to the ball more efficiently, Rhodes said.
"We knew it would take a while to get that thing going," the hitting coach said of Roache's power. "We talked to him about it being a marathon and not a sprint."
Rhodes raved about the way Roache handled his shaky first half. Roache said he was often frustrated by his first-half performances, but regular talks with his father, Victor Roache Sr., as well as friends and teammates helped him stick to the grind.
The outfielder is routinely arriving early to the ballpark, Rhodes said, and the extra hours he spent in the batting cage despite his struggles are paying dividends for the 6-foot-1, 225-pound outfielder.
"He's a quiet guy, but he has a great work ethic," Rhodes said. "Sometimes it's just me and him, and he works on things. We talk about things, like how guys are trying to pitch to him. Over a period of time in this league, he's made more adjustments and better adjustments and it's finally starting to pay off for him."
Jake Seiner is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner.