Decker goes deep twice, plates seven

Padres prospect helps Missions top 20-run mark for third time

Jaff Decker leads the Texas League with 23 RBIs in 15 games. (Shawn E. Davis/

By David Heck / Special to | April 23, 2011 8:45 PM ET

Jaff Decker's No. 1 goal this season is to stay healthy and stay on the field. So far, he's been doing a lot more than just showing up at the ballpark.

Decker had his second multi-homer game of the year and drove in seven runs Saturday, powering the Double-A San Antonio Missions to a 21-8 romp over the Midland RockHounds in a game that featured 33 hits and nine homers.

Saturday's game marked the third time this season that the Missions have scored more than 20 runs. They beat Tulsa, 23-10, on April 11 and took down Northwest Arkansas, 26-5, on April 15.

"Our lineup, 1-9, is stacked," Decker said. "We're great at leadoff, we're great in the middle. Even at the bottom, we have guys who would be hitting in the middle anywhere else. I just think that with us, we've been playing together so long, we understand that if you move a guy over, the next guy will pick up the RBI.

"We've got real good team chemistry. Anybody can come through with a two-out knock or a key hit."

Decker's first homer came in the third, when he took a 2-1 pitch from Ethan Hollingsworth over the right-field wall for a grand slam. He tacked on a three-run shot in the fifth off reliever Mickey Storey.

The 21-year-old outfielder missed time last year with a broken hand and had to put in extra work during the offseason trying to recover from the injury. But Decker, who's hitting .367 with six homers and a Texas League-leading 23 RBIs in 15 games, thinks that has played a role in his early-season success.

"I hit pretty much from October on because I had all that time to rehab," he said. "I worked real hard on my swing, conditioning and strength training. I came in fresh and ready to go.

"I have a great hitting coach, Tom Tornincasa, who works with me non-stop in the cage. We talk back and forth in the dugout after at-bats. I've got a real good thing going with him. Overall, I'm just happy I don't have to find my swing this year because it's already there."

The swings were there for the entire Missions lineup Saturday as everyone recorded at least one hit. Kyle Phillips went 5-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs, while four others enjoyed three-hit games.

Despite being a former first-round pick and widely regarded as one of the best players in the Padres farm system, Decker said he's not bothered by expectations.

"It's part of the game," he said. "It makes you more excited being that guy, knowing that you've got to go out and perform. It pumps you up a little bit. But you've got to do your work and get ready every day -- 160 games, you can't take any days off.

"If you lose it one day, you've got to find it the next day. It's a lot of hard work day to day. But I don't feel any pressure. Just go out and play."

David Heck is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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