The geographical rivalry between Triple-A Rochester and Syracuse is obvious, but Daniel Palka has taken things to a whole new level. The season is young, but there is little doubt the 25-year-old loves facing the Red Wings' neighbors to the east.
The sight of Chiefs pitchers again brought out the best in Palka, who homered twice and went 4-for-4 with four RBIs in Rochester's 7-6 loss in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader at Frontier Field. Palka delivered an RBI single and a run scored in the first game, a 10-6 Red Wings' win.
Video: Palka lofts second homer of game
He's done virtually all of his damage this year against the Chiefs, going 10-for-21 (.476) with all four of his home runs and all 10 of his RBIs. The Twins' No. 14 prospect is 1-for-17 in his other four games.
"Just another team," Palka said. "Really nothing special about seeing them. I mean it was kind of nice to finally play at home this weekend so that definitely helped the comfort level. But the Syracuse trip is close too, so maybe that plays a part.
"Seriously though, I'm just a little less anxious at plate. I don't know that I've gotten off to a good start in any season. I think I got a little too excited after that first series and I needed to calm back down a little."
The South Carolina native got Rochester's offense going in the second inning. Following a leadoff single by Kennys Vargas, Palka ripped an RBI double to center field and scored two batters later on Niko Goodrum's sacrifice fly. The slugging outfielder/first baseman launched his third long ball of the year over the center-field fence to lead off the fourth and added an RBI single to right in the fifth.
Palka added his second roundtripper of the game against former Major League All-Star Joe Nathan with two outs in the seventh. It was the 12th career multi-homer game and the fifth four-hit contest for the Georgia Tech product, who also had a two-home run, four-RBI performance against Syracuse on April 9.
"It was nice to hit it off Nathan," Palka said. "But he did come in pretty quickly and I think he was a little bit rushed. I got a good pitch to hit and it was a solid at-bat."
That hasn't been a problem for the 2013 third-round pick, who has 85 long balls in his three full Minor League seasons. He belted a career-high 34 home runs and had 90 RBIs with Double-A Chattanooga and Rochester in 2016.
"It's all about the approach," Palka said. "When I'm not trying to hit homers, I hit more. So I need to get away from trying to hit them and just let the home runs come."
Even with the Major Leagues just a step away, the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder doesn't put extra pressure on himself or dwell on how close he actually is to "The Show." MiLB include
"I think sometimes the thought creeps in," Palka said. "But at the start of every season, all you're thinking about is ultimately getting to the Majors and staying there. That's the goal. Whether you're In Rookie ball or Triple-A, it's the same goal and mind-set."
Syracuse's Brandon Snyder went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and fell a triple shy of hitting for the cycle in the second game. Twins 15th-ranked prospect Mitch Garver went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored in the opener.