The dog days of summer are here, but a change of position has helped Mike Kvasnicka approach the second half of the South Atlantic League season with a new sense of vitality.
With his batting average hovering below the Mendoza line for the first two months, the Astros prospect was moved from behind the plate into the outfield -- his position in college -- when Lexington manager Ivan De Jesus had holes to fill on his roster.
On Sunday, Kvasnicka homered from each side of the plate as part of a 3-for-4, seven-RBI performance as the Class A Legends outslugged the Greenville Drive, 13-7.
"You only get seven RBIs once every couple seasons, so to have a game like that was good," Kvasnicka said. "This is only the second time I've ever hit a home run right-handed and left-handed in my career. And I'd never hit a grand slam, not in high school or college or pro ball.
"It's hard to quantify the wear and tear on your body when you're catching. You never feel banged up, but then you go to the outfield and you like to be able to stretch your legs. It's not quite as mentally taxing as it is behind the plate."
Kvasnicka slugged a three-run homer off southpaw starter Henry Owens with two outs in the first inning, then hammered a grand slam off righty Tyler Lockwood before the Drive could record an out in the eighth.
"It was the first time I had seen [Owens]," the 23-year-old said. "He tried to get a curveball in there first pitch but missed, so I saw his arm angle and slot. Then I got a fastball middle-away that I fouled off and an inside fastball on the black. At 1-2, he tried to come back inside, but I got the bat on it.
"With two strikes, you try and get ready early because you can't go the other way or just sit on a fastball. You have to be ready to react."
After flying out in the third, walking in the fifth and singling in the seventh, Kvasnicka homered again.
"[Lockwood] was a right-hander with a low three-quarter arm angle, so the ball runs away," he added. "I fouled off a pitch down and away that was probably a ball, so I wanted to look for something up. I got a fastball middle and up and I got a bit under the ball and got backspin on it and it carried out."
It was the second career multi-homer for the University of Minnesota product -- his first came in a 13-4 loss to Greensboro on June 10 -- while the seven RBIs nearly doubled his previous best of four, achieved most recently in Thursday's 15-inning loss to Greenville.
Kvasnicka got off to a slow start this season, going 0-for-17 and recording five hits in his first 62 at-bats. It took until the 45th game of the season for his batting average to climb above .200, but Sunday's three-hit game boosted that mark to a season-high .226.
"I was in a slump to start the year, 4-for-54 or 5-for-58 or something," Kvasnicka said. "It's hard to start .160 and get to .310 or whatever it may be. You just try to get better month by month. I think I hit .118 [in April], then .225 [in May], then .280 [in June]. It's a process.
"I was slumping with guys in scoring position. That gave me the emphasis to focus on situational hitting. The RBIs start to come, and if you hit a home run with runners on base, you also get the cheap RBIs."
Selected 33rd overall in the 2010 Draft, Kvasnicka is batting .327 (15-for-46) with 17 RBIs over his last 10 games. He hasn't been told whether he'll stay in right field or go back to alternating between catching and serving as a designated hitter.
"Catching might still be mixed in," said Kvasnicka, who started switch-hitting as a college freshman. "But I don't know whether that will be once a week or twice a week; that's still undetermined. There were some roster challenges in the outfield and I mentioned I'd played there before. I felt comfortable and for the ease of the roster it just happened like that, so I had no qualms going out there.
"I haven't mastered the DH role yet. I'm not its biggest fan and I felt out of my element not being out on the field. I played 60 games in the outfield every year in college, so I'm comfortable."
Euris Quezada (1-2) gave up two hits and a walk while striking out four over 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win. Legends starter Luis Cruz surrendered seven runs -- six earned -- on seven hits over 4 1/3 frames.
Greenville's Henry Owens (9-4), the Red Sox's No. 18 prospect, was charged with six runs on three hits and four walks over two innings.