Hitless in his last two games, Otto Lopez worked with Rookie-level Bluefield hitting coach Carlos Villalobos on some small adjustments in the batting cage Friday morning. Those tweaks paved the way for the biggest offensive night of his career.
The Blue Jays prospect collected a career-high five hits and drove in three runs as Bluefield outslugged Greeneville, 21-11, at Pioneer Park. He collected a triple and two doubles, falling a home run shy of the cycle while matching his season total in hits.
Gameday box score
"It was maintaining balance and staying balanced with his swing," Villalobos said. "He tried to stay to the middle for the most part. That was mostly his approach tonight. ... I'm really impressed with it and the tools and talent with everyone here on the team."
The 19-year-old compiled a .275/.361/.360 slash line with 10 extra-base hits and 15 RBIs in 51 games last year in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Moving to the Appalachian League this season, Lopez had five hits in his first three games before going 0-for-7 with two strikeouts in his last two contests.
Leading off the second inning Friday, the second baseman jumped on the first offering from right-hander Miguel Medrano and sent it into right field for a double. Two batters later, he came home on Luis De Los Santos' triple.
Villalobos noted how Lopez did a good job of taking the ball to all fields.
"He pretty much just tried to stay inside on the ball and not try to do too much and let the ball come to him," the hitting coach said. "He tried to stay remain calm and just control himself and get a good pitch to hit for the most part."
In the third, Lopez delivered his second double of the game and fifth of the season, driving in John Aiello from first. The native of the Dominican Republic singled in both the fifth and sixth, bringing in another run with the latter hit.
Lopez capped his night in the seventh, ripping the fourth pitch from righty Stephen Keller into center for a run-scoring triple. With a chance at a sixth knock in the eighth, he bounced into a double play.
As Bluefield started to pull away, Villalobos talked in the dugout and stressed that at-bats still counted equally and that his players shouldn't take anything for granted over the last few innings. Lopez ran with that mentality and ended up with his third multi-hit game of the year.
"It's not easily individually, you need a lot of teamwork," Villalobos said. "I told them in the sixth or seventh inning, 'Don't give away your at-bats. Try to be selective, it doesn't matter if the game is tied or we're up by five, six or seven. Just don't give away at-bats and give a quality at-bat each time.'"
While Lopez fell shy of a perfect night at the plate, Villalobos saw a hitter who maintained a strong awareness at the plate while using an aggressive approach by attacking the first pitch on three separate occasions. He raised his average to .357 and OPS to 1.058 through six games.
"When he feels confident in his approach and especially with his swing, he's able to see and hit a first-pitch fastball in the middle and away part of the plate," Villalobos said. "It's the same with the attitude and the mental approach that they all compete with. It's about getting better every single day. As a team, you have to be fearless."
De Los Santos and Aiello both went deep as part of multi-hit efforts, while Cal Stevenson reached base five times and scored five runs as Bluefield totaled 20 hits.