RiverDogs' Bichette turns on power

Yankees prospect's grand slam is second homer in two days

Dante Bichette Jr. had seven career Minor League homers entering 2013. (Cliff Welch/MiLB.com)

By Sam Dykstra / Special to MLB.com | April 8, 2013 8:59 PM ET

Dante Bichette Jr. knew a change needed to be made. He was coming off a season in which he went produced a .248/.322/.331 batting line at Class A Charleston. What's more, the 6-foot-1 third baseman had hit only three home runs and collected 46 RBIs in 122 games.

So the Bichette family got to work. The 20-year-old's parents, 14-year Major League veteran Dante and mother Mariana, scoured the Internet for trainers who could help jump-start their son's hitting abilities.

They found Boston-based Eric Cressey to their liking.

"The average and stuff, that'll come," Bichette said. "But when it came to home runs, RBIs and things like that, it all definitely needed work. I definitely didn't know how hard to work in the offseason and the regular season until I met Eric."

The early returns look pretty good. Bichette, who says he added 15-16 pounds of extra muscle, hit a grand slam and totaled five RBIs in Charleston's 9-4 win over West Virginia on Monday.

The Yankees' No. 9 prospect has homered twice in as many days after going deep for the first time this season Sunday. A year ago, it took him until May 31 to hit his first home run with the RiverDogs. He didn't hit his second blast until July 7.

Bichette's latest round-tripper came at an opportune time. After recording two quick outs to start the ninth inning of a 5-4 ballgame, the RiverDogs loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk. Then it was Bichette's turn to take his hacks against Power right-handed reliever Bryton Trepagnier.

"The guy was busting me in with a couple of sinkers, so I knew to look on the inner half," said the right-handed batter. "Then he bounced a slider away, so I had to switch that up and look for something outside. Next pitch, he threw it over the plate, and I hit it well."

The result was a homer the other way to right field -- Bichette's first grand slam of his professional career. It was also his only hit as he finished 1-for-5 on the night. Through five games, the third baseman is 3-for-21 (.143) with one walk and eight strikeouts.

Even though the numbers outside of power haven't shown similar promise to start the year, Bichette expressed excitement about his return to the South Atlantic League.

"It's kind of cool actually," said the 2011 second-round pick. "Obviously, it happens that you're going to be stay where you're at with those numbers I had last year. But when you have the opportunity to do better, you have to take it."

In fact, Bichette showed the most enthusiasm for testing his new-found power out in the same parks he visited in 2012.

"I noticed it in Greenville during our first road trip of the year," he said. "During batting practice, I was hitting balls a lot farther than I had at any point there last year. Then I went and hit one out in the game yesterday too."

Whether or not the Yankees farmhand continues to produce power numbers at his early-2013 clip remains to be seen. But if nothing else, he'll continue to have the support of the family that did its best during the offseason to make Monday a reality, even if his dad can be a little preoccupied.

"He honestly doesn't tell me much, except to always say, 'Remember you can mash,'" Bichette said of his father, who is entering his first season as Rockies hitting coach.

RiverDogs catcher Peter O'Brien hit his first home run of the season in the win. He finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Second baseman Robert Refsnyder went 3-for-3 with two doubles, two runs scored and two walks.

Pirates' No. 19 prospect Tyler Glasnow didn't factor in the decision after striking out six and allowing four hits in five shutout innings. No. 6 prospect Josh Bell doubled and drove in three.

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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