Naturals' Bonifacio seeing work pay off

Royals' No. 9 prospect ties career high with five RBIs on 3-for-4 night

Jorge Bonifacio is batting .269 with 10 RBIs in 12 May games for Northwest Arkansas. (Shane Roper/MiLB.com)

By Robert Emrich / MiLB.com | May 15, 2015 1:31 AM

Jorge Bonifacio got what he had coming to him on Thursday.

The Royals' No. 9 prospect smacked three hits and tied a career high with five RBIs as Double-A Northwest Arkansas defeated Springfield, 9-5.

After lining out in the first inning, Bonifacio helped temporarily put the Naturals ahead, singling home Terrance Gore in the third. Following a walk in the fifth, the 21-year-old outfielder rallied the club again, smacking a three-run double to break a 5-5 tie in the sixth. Bonifacio added an RBI single in the eighth to cap his night.

"You know what, tonight's been a long time coming," said hitting coach Brandon Moore. "The amount of work he's put in -- trying to shorten up his swing, getting his barrel in front and he just happened to swing at good pitches tonight."

The double in particular was a big blow as the Naturals' 3-2 lead had turned into a 5-3 deficit in the top half of the sixth.

"It was a huge moment for him and us," Moore said. "Working the count, getting in a 3-2 count, staying on a pitch and driving it over left fielder [Breyvic Valera's] head, just a good swing. It was really good to see."

Bonifacio started slow out of the gate, posting a .192/.281/.410 slash line in April. But the average has started to rise, with the Dominican Republic native batting .269 with 10 RBIs in 12 games -- doubling his RBI total from the previous month.

"He's just swinging at better pitches, to be quite honest," Moore said. "I think he's seeing the ball a lot better. Not chasing quite as much below the zone, I think that's really setting him up to swing the bat better."

Bonifacio, who is repeating the Texas League, has shown signs of growth by slugging six homers in 2015 vs. four in 132 games a year ago. Moore thinks it's just a matter of a young hitter coming into his own.

"I think just maturing as a hitter," he said. "He's stronger, he's grown a little bit. I think his swing is coming around, a shorter-type swing, and he's really learning how to hit and how to manipulate the barrel."

A three-hit game in which he matched a career high in RBIs, set on April 22, 2013 while with Class A Advanced Wilmington, can only do wonders for Bonifacio.

"I think it's huge for his confidence," Moore said. "The amount of work that he's put in and the amount of effort to just get back to feeling good again. Seeing pitches, identifying pitches, identifying them as balls or strikes early, I think that's a huge boost for him."

Rafael Furcal, who signed a Minor League contract with the Royals on April 1, made his Naturals' debut, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored while Gore scored twice.

Mark Peterson improved to 2-0 after giving up one hit over 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief. 

Springfield's Anthony Garcia went yard while Mike Ohlman plated two runs in the loss.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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