In the dry air of Arizona, balls tend to fly in the Arizona Fall League. And on Monday, Renato Nunez capitalized.
Oakland's No. 6 prospect slugged three homers and plated five runs as Mesa fell, 10-6, to Scottsdale in AFL action.
"He was ready to hit today. He got some fastballs to hit and he didn't hold back, he got the head out," Solar Sox manager Mark Johnson said. "It looks like [he's fully back] after today."
Nunez is playing in the AFL after missing 11 days in August with a hamstring strain. After totalling two hits and a walk without an RBI in his first three games, the Venezuela native went 3-for-5 with three runs scored.
"I was just trying to find some contact," Nunez told MLB.com. "I struggled in the last couple games, but today it was about finding the barrel and making good contact. The balls I hit I just let it fly and they went out."
The 21-year-old accumulated 18 jacks for Double-A Midland in 93 games this season, but had not posted a multi-homer game since July 7, 2014.
"He seems to be a professional hitter. His at-bats are really focused. He goes about his at-bats the way you would see in a mature player. So he's definitely ahead of the game at the plate it seems with his approach," the skipper said. "Defensively, he's been working hard and trying to get back into more playing shape. But he works hard on defense and definitely has an advanced approach at the plate."
Nunez belted a three-run shot to left-center field in the third, a solo blast to the same area in the sixth and then closed out the big night with another solo homer to left in the ninth.
"His last one was a monster shot, probably his furthest one. His first one was hit hard too, it went halfway up the berm," Johnson said. "The second one went to left-center and got out by a little bit, but all three were bombs on the scorecard."
As a manager for Class A Kane County in 2013, Johnson faced Nunez, who was with Beloit at the time. The skipper enjoys being around players he has coached for and against during his five-year tenure as a Minor League manager.
"You get to know these guys and start to learn their habits and understand what makes them tick," Johnson said. "And try to help them in a way that they haven't heard or say something they haven't heard before in a different way. [I'm] just trying to help them out, get to the next level."
On that 2013 Cougars squad was Mesa starter Rob Zastryzny, who made his second AFL appearance Monday. The Cubs' No. 24 prospect allowed three runs on six hits while striking out four in four innings.
"He was pretty good, he got ahead of hitters. All of the damage today came with two outs, an infield hit and a blooper to center field, and then he gave up two more two-out hits that drove in some runs," the manager said of the Missouri product. "He got early contact and got guys out early, but just couldn't finish it. But overall, he threw the ball well."
As for the Scorpions, Giants' second-ranked prospect Christian Arroyo finished a triple short of the cycle and Twins No. 10 prospect Adam Brett Walker lofted his first homer of the fledgling season.
Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.