Blake Rutherford received some sage advice this offseason.
"Don't worry about hitting home runs -- those will come later. Worry about hitting hard line drives."
That's what Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich emphasized for Rutherford when the two Southern California natives trained together in the offseason.
Video: Winston-Salem's Rutherford hits extra-inning blast
That approached worked out just fine Wednesday. The seventh-ranked White Sox prospect sent a line drive over the right-field fence for a go-ahead three-run homer in the 10th inning to give Class A Advanced Winston-Salem a 10-8 win over Salem at Haley Toyota Field. He also delivered a two-run single in the fifth and set a career high with five RBIs.
The decisive blast was struck hard, but the Simi Valley, California native wasn't sure it was gone initially.
"I knew I got enough to score the runner from third on a sac fly, but then the right fielder [Tyler Hill] kept going and going, so I thought it had a chance," Rutherford said. "And then when it went over, I obviously knew, but at first off the bat, I wasn't quite sure."
Gameday box score
After Alex Call singled to send designated runner Joel Booker to third, Rutherford turned on a 0-1 offering from Matthew Gorst to snap a 7-7 tie. It gave him back-to-back multi-hit games, five in his last nine contests and a .333 average. He entered Wednesday with his highest OPS (.826) since posting a 1.058 clip in 25 games in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2016.
His extra-inning roundtripper was his second of the season, matching his total from 2017 in the South Atlantic League. But Rutherford isn't obsessing about his home run total.
"I'm still a young guy. I'm still trying to find my approach and my swing," he said. "I still have a lot of growth to do and weight to put on. There's a lot of time to learn to hit home runs.
"I definitely think the power will come down the road. Who knows when it comes or if it will come, it's not really in my hands. I'm just going to try and compete every at-bat. ... I don't want to turn into a guy that just swings up. I want to be able to hit line drives all around the field."
Yelich sent a decent example for the 21-year-old left-handed hitter. The Brewers outfielder slugged double-digit homers in two of his four Minor League seasons while in the Marlins system.
Rutherford was acquired by the White Sox in the July 2017 trade that sent Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson to New York.
The Yankees' first-round pick in 2016 was admittedly crushed by the news as he was drafted by his favorite team. He's learned to embrace it, though.
"Mostly it was tough because I had a great relationship with all the coaches and the players there. (I have) nothing but great things to say about (the Yankees)," Rutherford said. "But getting traded to a place like Chicago where the opportunity is tremendous and the players are very good here too. It's also special."
Winston-Salem hitting coach Charles Poe received his first glimpse of Rutherford at an organizational hitting summit in January. His first impression was of a quiet, but mature kid with an advanced hitting approach.
"He's a gamer," Poe said. "He comes to play every day and he does his homework. He studies his opponent and he does a routine that he does every day in the cage that he won't miss. That's pretty advanced for a young guy, to know what he has to do every day to get better.
"He asks the right questions and gets in early to get his stuff done. Not enough guys do that to prepare themselves every day to play."
The Red Sox got within two runs in the bottom of the 10th when Carlos Tovar plated Tyler Hill with a one-out single, but Matt Foster (1-1) induced a game-ending double play.
Winston-Salem's Mitch Roman went 3-for-3 with three RBIs, while Red Sox leadoff man Santiago Espinal tripled, singled and drove in two runs.