Lazaro Armenteros hasn't had a monster year at the plate, but if Wednesday night is a sign of what's coming, the second half could be electric.
Oakland's No. 4 prospect belted his first career grand slam during his first multi-homer game, posting a personal-best five RBIs as Class A Advanced Stockton dismantled Lancaster, 15-2.
Video: Stockton's Armenteros hits a grand slam
"I'm happy for him," Ports hitting coach Brian McArn said. "He's been working real hard at trying to change some things, mostly just pitch recognition, understanding that his strikeouts are mostly on pitches that keep coming at him, right-handed sliders. Pitch recognition and head position really."
Armenteros headed into his team's season opener at Lancaster riding a modest four-game hitting streak but without a homer in his previous 17 appearances. After striking out swinging in his first at-bat and lining out to third base in his second, the outfielder got started.
With the bases loaded in the top of the fourth inning, Armenteros hammered an offering from Moises Ceja over the wall in left-center field wall to extend the Ports' lead to 11-2.
Gameday box score
Two frames later, he did it again. Facing the righty reliever once more, Armenteros connected on a monster solo blast to left-center that cleared The Hangar's scoreboard tower.
"He's been known to just chase those pitches down and away from right-handed pitching, breaking balls," McArn said. "When he's getting his pitch, he hasn't been capitalizing on it. They threw them in a higher spot where he could make contact. Our fourth coach, Javier Godard, has been working with him in the cage, off the machine, right-handed breaking balls and his head position. When he gets those pitches in his zone, he can't miss them.
"It's easy to talk about and work in the cage and batting practice, but a game's a different feeling. When you can get those kind of results in a game, it boosts his confidence and hopefully [there's] more to come."
Armenteros went to the plate with the bases loaded again in the seventh and hit into an inning-ending fielder's choice to third base.
Video: Stockton's Armenteros homers again
The five RBIs surpassed Armenteros' previous season high of three, set on May 5 and June 7, and the professional best of four set on Aug. 1, 2017 in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Through 82 games this season, Armenteros already has surpassed his total from last year (79) with Class A Beloit, a workload the Stockton staff is mindful of as the season draws deeper and the summer heats up.
"He's a specimen already, so we don't need those extra reps in the cage," McArn said. "We're trying to tone down on his swings and keep him strong so he has that strength in the game."
2019 MiLB include
With Armenteros' confidence growing, McArn relayed the lesson he most wanted the Havana native to take away from his big Wednesday showing.
"Mainly just how he got to those [pitches], how he trusted his zone and didn't go outside of his zone," the hitting coach said. "I think he had a check-swing strikeout, but other than that, he had good plate discipline. When they threw it in his zone, he capitalized on it. Pitch selection and having his body in the right place at contact was the key for him tonight."
Stockton rolled up 17 hits in the victory, including four from second baseman Trace Loehr -- who tripled, doubled and drove in two runs. Third baseman Jonah Bride added a three-run homer.