When Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez first learned Randy Arozarena would be joining his club, his first thought was to write him immediately at the top of the lineup.
Then, he took a step back, knowing that Arozarena was in need of a reset after being sent down from Triple-A and hit him eighth instead.
"I wanted him to relax," Rodriguez said. "I told him, '[It's] just for today. Just relax. Get your pitches. You might get some fastballs and just get ahead of the pitching, and tomorrow you'll hit leadoff.'"
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In his first game since returning to Double-A, the Cardinals' No. 11 prospect went 2-for-4 with a grand slam and a career-high five RBIs to lead Springfield to a 15 -5 rout of Tulsa on Saturday at Hammons Field.
"He had quite a night," Rodriguez said.
The 23-year-old received a non-roster invitation to big league Spring Training this season, hitting .244/.320/.400 in 45 at-bats before being assigned to Triple-A. He put up a .343/.429/.457 slash line in his first nine games with Memphis before hitting a 7-for-38 stretch in his last 11 games in the Pacific Coast League.
According to Rodriguez, sending Arozarena down was less of a demotion than it was returning to the original plan.
Arozarena was slotted to begin the season in Springfield, but an injury to Jedd Gyorko and the subsequent recall of Harrison Bader set off a chain reaction and left Memphis with a dearth of outfielders. That forced him into his Triple-A debut.
Video: Cards' Arozarena slugs grand slam
After striking out in his first at-bat Saturday, Arozarena ambushed a first-pitch offering to left field in the third, scoring Cardinals No. 9 propsect Andrew Knizner. After the inning was over, Rodriguez came over to Arozarena, patted him on the helmet and reminded him, "Leadoff tomorrow."
Apparently, he liked what he heard.
In his next at-bat, Arozarena sent a 1-0 pitch over the fence in left-center field with the bases loaded in the fifth inning for his first home run of the season and his second career grand slam. His first came last year with Class A Advanced Palm Beach.
Signed out of Cuba as an international free agent in August 2016, Arozarena hit .275/.333/.472 in his first season stateside with Palm Beach before earning a quick promotion to Double-A, where he posted a .252 average and .746 OPS.
The Cardinals scored all of their 15 runs in the span of three innings: four in the third, six in the fourth and five in the fifth.
Victor Roache matched Arozarena with five RBIs and Knizner went 2-for-3 with three RBIs for Springfield. Cardinals No. 8 prospect Ryan Helsley (2-1) picked up the win, striking out 10 and allowing four runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings.
Connor Joe was 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs for Tulsa.