At first glance, labeling Austin Hedges' recent power surge as Ruthian might seem outrageous. But a closer look at what the Padres catcher has done shows the comparison is anything but ridiculous.
Hedges capped a four-hit night with a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, giving Triple-A El Paso a 4-1 victory over Reno at Southwest University Park.
It was his 10th homer in 11 games, a stretch during which he's batting .541 with 23 RBIs. He's tied for fourth in the Pacific League with 14 homers, five behind teammate and Padres No. 3 prospect Hunter Renfroe, who's played 38 more games than Hedges.
"It has been a really good stretch," he said. "But there are highs and lows in this game. It can humble you pretty quickly, so I wouldn't say if I'm surprised by this or not surprised. When you work hard and stick with it, you expect good things to happen. And it's nice to see those good things happening."
The 23-year-old had more good fortune come his way as he singled in each of his first three plate appearances. Aces reliever Evan Marshall retired him on a groundout in the eighth, but with the score tied 1-1 in the ninth, Hedges got his chance.
After Padres top prospect Manny Margot flied out, No. 15 prospect Carlos Asuaje and Renfroe reached on back-to-back singles. Hedges fell behind, 1-2, against Dominic Leone before sending the 9,822 fans home with a blast to right-center.
Since returning from a five-week stint on the disabled list, the 2011 second-round pick is hitting .442 with 12 homers and 32 RBIs in 22 games for the Chihuahuas.
"In that situation, I'm just trying to stay short," Hedges said, "hit the ball hard somewhere and try and get that run in from second base. I'm glad we could walk away with a win, especially after we lost a tough one yesterday in extras."
Having appeared in 56 Major League games last season, when he hit .168 over 137 at-bats, Hedges has added the power dimension to his game. The California native entered the season with 23 homers in 325 Minor League games but already has shattered his previous career best of 10, set in 2012 with Class A Fort Wayne.
"A lot of my success is based on trust. The trust in the work I've been putting in before games, whether it's on the tee, during batting practice or watching film," Hedges said. "Everything I've worked on I've trusted enough to apply it during the game, and I'm getting positive results."
Being a catcher only adds to the demands on Hedges, but he said he accepts that as just part of the process.
"It is a lot of work, but that's what the position calls for," he said. "That's on me to make sure I'm prepared on both sides of the field."
Renfroe had two hits and also went deep for El Paso, launching his league-leading 19th in the first.
Chihuahuas starter Bryan Rodriguez allowed one run on seven hits and a walk with six strikeouts over a season-high eight innings. Frank Garces (2-3) fanned one in a perfect ninth to pick up the win.
Leone (4-2) retired one batter in the ninth and was charged with three runs on three hits.
Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB