Ronny Rodriguez has steadily been bringing his average up since hitting a season-low May 3. On Sunday, he took that effort into overdrive.
Cleveland’s No. 5 prospect had a perfect day at the plate, collecting a career-best five hits in five at-bats as the Class A Advanced Carolina Mudcats rattled off a 10-run eighth to propel them past the Salem Red Sox, 14-8.
Rodriguez doubled, scored three times and drove in two runs as part of his banner day.
“That was the best game of my career,” said the Dominican Republic native. “I had four hits earlier [this season], but that was the first time in my career I had five hits.”
His four-hit game took place May 4, one day after his average sank to a season-low of .188. In the next month-and-a-half, he worked it up to .260 before Sunday’s outburst boosted it to .275, the highest it’s been since his 13th game of the season April 20.
Rodriguez said simplifying things helped him find his swing.
“I’ve practiced a lot, but I don’t want to think too much,” he noted. “Before I thought too much, now everything is good. I’m positive, working hard, trying to do my job every day.”
The Indians prospect has shown steady progress for the shortstop each month. After averaging .203 in April, he hit .278 in May and now sports a .367 line in 60 June at-bats. After Sunday, his on-base percentage is .309 and his slugging percentage sits at .424. He has five home runs and 32 RBIs in 67 Carolina League games this season.
Rodriguez was signed as an international free agent by Cleveland in 2010. He hit .246 with a .449 slugging mark last season with Class A Lake County, homering 11 times and driving in 42 runs for the Captains.
Rodriguez singled in the second, fifth and sixth Sunday before he capped his career day as part of the Mudcats’ eighth-inning outburst.
Two of the 20-year-old’s five hits came in Carolina’s 10-run eighth. He batted second in the inning and doubled in Jesus Aguilar. He came around again to single in Jeremie Tice and scored when Carlos Moncrief followed with a three-run homer.
It turned what had been an 8-3 deficit into a 13-8 lead for the Mudcats.
“That was a great inning,” said Rodriguez. “We were down by like five and then we got going, got good hitting. We were doing everything right, it was a lot of fun.”
Five other batters had at least two hits for Carolina. Giovanny Urshela went 3-for-6 with two doubles and two RBIs and Aguilar went 3-for-5 with a double and three runs scored. Moncrief, Jake Lowery and Tyler Holt all posted two-hit games.
Rodriguez said he received a lot of support from coaches and teammates for his big day, and he relished providing that kind of production.
“[My teammates] were clapping, jumping up and down, saying, ‘Congratulations Ronny.’ I just want to keep doing it that way. I appreciated it, [I] feel great and happy to help the team.”
Jonathan Raymond 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.