Willie Abreu entered the season with 20 career homers. Never before had he hit two in the same game.
The Rockies' No. 27 prospect decided Opening Day would be an opportune time for his first multi-homer game, hammering a pair of two-run shots to power Class A Advanced Lancaster to a 9-7 triumph over Modesto at The Hangar. He went 3-for-3 and reached base in all four of his plate apperances.
Abreu's 14 homers last season with Class A Asheville earned him a promotion to the JetHawks for the start of the season. One game in and the Rockies' decision to move him up looks like a prudent one.
"It was fun," Abreu said. "Honestly, the best thing is gettting a win. This team is really talented and we play good together."
After getting plunked in his first at-bat, Abreu stole second and came around to score on a double by 29th-ranked prospect Vince Fernandez. In the second inning, the 2016 sixth-round pick connected for his first two-run shot to right field. Modesto starter Ljay Newsome began the at-bat with two fastballs up in the zone. Abreu felt he had a good read on Newsome and guessed breaking ball but didn't want to overswing. Still, the ball wound up clearing the fence.
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Rockies No. 4 prospect Colton Welker followed Abreu's shot with a solo homer of his own.
"That was great," Abreu said of the back-to-back blasts. "Welker can swing the bat with the best of them.
"This team just feeds off each other's energy."
In the fourth, Abreu slapped a single through the left side for his second hit. But there was more to come in the power department.
Modesto trailed early, 7-0, but battled back to tie the game in the sixth. Abreu tagged left-hander Colin Rodgers in the home half of the frame, getting another pitch up in the zone he could handle. The homer also went to his pull side and provided the JetHawks with the final margin.
With Asheville last season, Abreu finished fourth in the South Atlantic League with 78 RBIs while posting a .283/.321/.463 slash line. The University of Miami product has his sights set on an even more productive campaign in the hitter-friendly Cal League. He said he understands that every night will not be as successful as Thursday. The challenge will be to stay levelheaded throughout the season.
"It's strictly routine," Abreu said. "We work a lot on preparing ourselves."
The spotlight may have belonged to Abreu in the opener, but he's focused on soaking it all in with his teammates and leading Lancaster back to the playoffs.
"We're enjoying it and just having fun," he said.
Welker was 2-for-3 with a walk, two RBIs and two runs scored, while No. 15 prospect Forrest Wall singled twice and scored twice out of the leadoff spot.
Sixth-ranked Mariners prospect Joe Rizzo and Nick Zammarelli III collected three hits apiece for the Nuts.
Chris Bumbaca is a contributor for MiLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twiter @BOOMbaca.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.