George Springer had enough pressure coming into his first professional season as the Astros' first-round pick -- 11th overall -- in the 2011 Draft. Then he added his own.
"There's always those pressures and expectations whenever you're a first-rounder or second-rounder to go out there and succeed," he said. "But then again, you always want to succeed and do well, no matter what the case is. For me, I have to believe in myself to help work that out. Know your game, go out there and play."
Lately, Springer's game has to been to hit the ball, and it hit it very well. The Astros' No. 3 prospect was a perfect 4-for-4 with three doubles, a walk, two RBIs and two runs scored in Class A Lancaster's 10-8 win over Stockton. He extended his hitting streak to 16 games in the victory, marking both a career best and the longest such run for the JetHawks this season.
"I feel good," Springer said. "Everything's working within the plan that I've been kind of setting for myself. I put in a lot of preparation and once I hit the box, I want to get something I can swing at so I can get the head of the bat smoothly on the ball."
The center fielder achieved that goal in his first three at-bats -- singling in the first inning, doubling in the second and stroking an RBI double in the fourth. But in the fifth, his third double of the night didn't exactly match Springer's idea of a perfect two-bagger.
"The first two [doubles] were pretty solid, but that last one was a bloop job," joked MLB.com's No. 72 prospect. "But it still counts. I'll certainly take it."
The former University of Connecticut star also stole two bases Sunday night, both times taking third base. After walking in the eighth inning, he moved to second on an Erik Castro free pass, proceeded to swipe third on a double steal and then took home on a throwing error by Ports catcher Max Stassi.
With that second steal, Springer improved his season total to 20 -- tops on the Lancaster roster and tied for eighth-most in the California League.
"I run when I can," said the JetHawks' No. 2 hitter. "With guys like [Domingo Santana] and Erik hitting behind me, they can swing the bat and I'm not going to take it out of their hands by getting caught. But at the same time, I will run if I think there's an opportunity to help the team out. It's just more about letting those guys hit and putting our team in the best scenario to score."
Along with the 20 steals, Springer is batting .326 with 17 homers and 63 RBIs through the first 80 games of his opening full year in pro ball. His .981 OPS ranks third in the hitter-happy Cal League while his .576 slugging percentage is fifth, aided by his career-high three doubles Sunday night.
Because of those numbers, he was awarded with the starting right field spot on the Cal League All-Star team last month. (He went 0-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and a stolen base in the showcase.) Meanwhile, Springer has been a little harder on himself than his accolades would suggest.
"For myself, I've done OK," he said. "I know I can do a lot better, and that's something I'm always working on. I want to get better each day."
So does that mean a 5-for-5, four-double performance on Monday? Perhaps not.
"I'm just looking to help us win, however I can do that," Springer said. "If it means getting a hit every at-bat, I'll try for that. But if it means taking three walks, I'll do that too."
Second baseman Enrique Hernandez was 3-for-4 with a double, walk, two RBIs and a run scored for the JetHawks.
Ports first baseman Josh Whitaker finished 2-for-5 with two doubles and three RBIs while left fielder Mitch LeVier contributed a three-run homer in the sixth.