Winston-Salem Warthogs designated hitter John Shelby found a great way to rest his legs in his second game back from a hamstring injury: he made sure he didn't have to run the bases.
Shelby tied the Carolina League record with three homers -- his first three at the Class A Advanced level -- and knocked in a career-high five runs Saturday as the Warthogs topped the Wilmington Blue Rocks, 8-5, at Ernie Shore Field.
"I'm battling back," Shelby said of the injury that sidelined him for two weeks. "I still feel a lot of soreness, but I'm determined to be in there. I just made sure I didn't have to run the bases."
Shelby smacked a solo shot on the first pitch he saw in the opening inning and followed that up with a two-run blast in the fifth, both off Wilmington start Everett Teaford.
"The first home run was a changeup," the 22-year-old Baltimore native said. "The second pitch was a fastball or a changeup away."
Shelby had no trouble adjusting to a new pitcher, either, as he faced reliever Russell Haltiwanger in the seventh and promptly smacked another two-run shot.
"I worked the count a little bit. I knew the guy was going to throw something offspeed, so I just wanted to stay back and try to pull the ball," he explained. "We had a guy on third and they had the infield in and I was just trying to work the ball up the middle and get the guy in."
Shelby had been 6-for-27 through seven games before going down with the injury and said the time off gave him a chance to work out of his early-season slump.
"[I was] just working with a few things, a few of the players I worked with last year showing me things with my hands," he said. "I've been working with the hitting coach and tried a few things in BP. And I felt good last year and I just tried to see where my hands were last year when I was going good."
Shelby ranked in the top 10 among White Sox Minor Leaguers in nine offensive categories in 2007 while playing for Class A Kannapolis. He hopes Saturday night's performance can help him regain the success he had last year.
"I just want to work with my hands and hit line drives," he said. "I'm not really a home run hitter, but line drives can turn into home runs. It felt good to be back in the lineup."
Shelby also picked up bragging rights over his father, Orioles third base coach and former Major Leaguer John Shelby. The elder Shelby, who played 11 seasons in the big leagues, never hit more than two homers in a game.
"I'm going to call him and let him know," the younger Shelby joked. "I'm sure he's rooting for me and pushing for me, we talk every day."
C.J. Retherford and Brandon Allen also went deep against a Blue Rocks pitching staff that had surrendered only six home runs over the first 27 games of the season.
Starter Matthew Long (2-2) picked up the win for Winston-Salem, allowing two unearned runs on four hits with five strikeouts over five innings. Matthew Zaleski closed it out by fanning five over four frames for his first save.
Teaford (2-1) surrendered three homers among seven hits and was charged with four runs over six innings.