Josh Sale had plenty of time to perfect his process for this spring. The results have been pretty apparent.
The Rays' No. 12 prospect went 2-for-4 with a double and three more RBIs on Saturday as the Class A Bowling Green Hot Rods cruised to a 9-3 victory over the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
After spending the first month of the season at extended spring training in Florida, Sale has driven in at least a run in nine of his last 10 games.
"I've just been sticking to a process that the Rays helped me develop, the mental game," said the 17th overall pick in the 2010 Draft. "I'm making sure I stay in my zone and not go outside of that and give in to the pitcher, not try to do too much."
Sale has driven in 15 runs in 13 games with the Hot Rods, matching his total over 60 games last season with short-season Princeton. He also has five homers and is hitting .351.
Sale credited the Rays' organizational approach to player development with helping him find success so quickly out of the gate after batting .210 in the Appalachian League last summer.
"I feel like it's helped me. I think it's a testament to how the organization works," he said. "They always harp on believing in the process, don't worry about the outcome. Keep your nose to the grindstone and good things will happen."
It's certainly worked for the 21-year-old Washington native, who's drawn nine walks against six strikeouts. He's already tied for ninth in the Midwest League in homers, despite playing more than 20 fewer games than most of the other leaders. And his average, on-base percentage (.490) and slugging percentage (.811) would easily lead the circuit if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
Sale said the biggest key to his fas start is approaching every at-bat with the patience and purpose preached by the coaches at the Rays' complex in Florida.
"You pay attention to the little details, don't get caught up in what the results are," he explained. "You have to continue to grind out the process, see it out in certain situations. As long as it was a good at-bat and you put up a battle, didn't go outside of what you went up there intending to do, that'll help you stay on the path that you're on."
Highly touted out of Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle, Sale is slowly showing he's learned how to hit professional pitching after a somewhat difficult debut last season.
"Some [Midwest League pitchers] are surprising as to their approach, but I feel like I'm on it," he said. "I don't feel like anything is going to pop up and really catch me off-guard. If they throw something that surprises me a little bit, I'll make a mental note of it. But the key for me is just staying on the fastball."
Rays No. 8 prospect Drew Vettleson added three hits and scored three runs, raising his average to .291. Jeff Malm doubled twice and also picked up three RBIs, while Joel Caminero homered, doubled and drove in two runs.
Felipe Rivero (3-3), Tampa Bay's 17th-ranked prospect, allowed one run on three hits over five innings out of the bullpen to get the win. He struck out five without issuing a walk.