Throughout the second half last year, Josh Rutlegde was one of the most dangerous hitters in the Minor Leagues. He hasn't cooled off yet.
The Rockies' No. 16 prospect collected two homers, three RBIs and three runs scored Friday, leading the Double-A Tulsa Drillers to a 9-4 triumph over the San Antonio Missions.
Rutledge, who went deep nine times last year, already has three longballs this season. Friday's game marked the first multi-homer performance of his three-year Minor League career.
"I'm just trying to get back to my same approach, trying to hit everything up the middle," said Rutledge, who leads the team with seven RBIs. "They left a few pitches a little bit over the plate and we had a little bit of wind in our favor tonight, so that always helps."
The 22-year-old shortstop wasted little time making a mark Friday, as he led off the bottom of the first inning by taking Andrew Werner's first pitch over the left-field wall. It was the first of three homers and seven runs surrendered by Werner (0-1) during a 5 1/3-inning stint.
"It was just a fastball middle-in," Rutledge said. "[Werner] just left it up a little bit."
Rutledge drew a leadoff walked in the third before coming around to score on a double by Michael Mitchell. In the fifth, the Alabama native launched his second homer of the night, a two-run shot to left.
"It was almost the same pitch, just a little bit higher," Rutledge said. "I think I hit it in almost the same spot."
Selected in the third round of the 2010 Draft, Rutledge struggled through the first half last season, hitting .262 without a homer before the All-Star break for Class A Advanced Modesto. He caught fire in the second half, however, batting .411 with nine homers over the final 65 games with the Nuts.
Rutledge said he's trying to maintain the same approach that he had during that extended hot streak.
"That's the approach I've always had at the plate," he said. "During the offseason, I've tried to stay with it as much as I can. It helps me stay on off-speed pitches a lot better."
Kent Matthes, Colorado's No. 20 prospect, was 2-for-3 with a homer, double and two RBIs, while top Rockies prospect Nolan Arenado doubled and drove in his sixth run of the season. Both players were teammates with Rutledge last year in the California League.
"I think we have a great team," Rutledge said. "We have good staring pitching, also; they keep us in the ballgame. ... Knowing these guys and knowing how we play and how good the team chemistry is helps us a lot, too."
In terms of goals, Rutledge said his first priority is winning. Individually, he's looking to perform consistently and keep his plate appearances in perspective.
"I just try to help the team as much as I can doing whatever it is that I have to do," he said. "I'm just trying to have good at-bats each time and hit the ball hard, mainly. If it falls, it falls; if not, you've got another at-bat. And if you don't have another at-bat, you've got another game the next day. That's the good part about his game, you get to play again the next day."