Jose Pirela didn't start the season on the best footing, but over the last three months, he's been one of the Eastern League's hottest hitters. Monday night was just the latest example of his output.
The Double-A Trenton outfielder went a perfect 5-for-5, drove in four runs and even added a stolen base to lead the Thunder in a 10-3 win over the New Britain Rock Cats.
Pirela now has five multi-hit games in his last eight contests. His four RBIs were a season high and his steal was his 17th of the year.
"That's obviously a great night. He's been swinging the bat for us pretty much the entire second half, and [tonight] he got good pitches and didn't miss them," said Thunder hitting coach Justin Turner.
The Venezuela native struggled in April and May, hitting .217 and .200 respectively, before things turned around in June.
He's posted a progressively higher average each of the past three months, batting .309 in June, .325 in July and .353 in 16 games in August.
"The beginning of the year, he was hitting it hard, it just happened to go to a glove. He had a little case of bad luck on batted balls and then went through a stretch where he tried to do a little too much. He got sick of balls getting caught and tried to hit them harder," said Turner. "Once he got back to taking what they gave him, taking a good swing, the results have taken care of themselves.
"He's a veteran here in this league, but he's still a 23-year-old kid. I think it's difficult for these young guys to be hitting the ball hard and not getting hits. To appreciate the process of going in and grinding it out daily. And to his credit, he's done a great job of bringing a positive attitude. He plays as hard as anyone we have and it's nice to see him have some good results."
Pirela is in his third year at Double-A. In 2011, he hit .239/.292/.353 and then last year batted .293/.356/.448.
In 110 games overall this year, he's put up a .275/.361/.419 line. He also hit .304 (7-for-23) in a five-game stint with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre earlier this year.
Turner said if Pirela was put in a position to log some more significant time at Triple-A, he would probably impress.
"I think it's all just about the situation. Is there going to be an opportunity for him to play [at Triple-A]? We have guys at that level that are experienced, with some Major League time, and just in this case, we want to get this kid at-bats. Whether Double-A or Triple-A, it's not going to matter for the rest of the year," he said. "Hopefully he's here making a push for the playoffs, we want him in our lineup. But if not, good for him. We're obviously trying to move players along. He's ready in my mind, he proved he can hit at the Double-A level, and if he gets the opportunity, great. I'm sure next year will present that."
Kyle Roller also drove in a pair of runs and Reegie Corona scored three times for the Thunder. Top Yankee prospect Gary Sanchez went 2-for-4, walked twice, doubled and scored two times.