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Tellez leads charge with second AFL homer

Blue Jays prospect shows off powerful bat as Salt River tops Peoria, 5-2

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The weather on Thursday night at Salt River Fields wasn't ideal for hitting, but it didn't prevent slugger Rowdy Tellez from showcasing his huge power.

The Blue Jays No. 7 prospect cranked his second home run of the Fall League -- a no-doubter to deep right field -- and went 2-for-3 at the plate as Salt River defeated Peoria, 5-2. He also drew a walk in the contest, and his lone out was a sharply-hit groundball to shortstop.

Tellez began the Fall League on a tear, notching two-hits and four RBIs in back-to-back games, but he had cooled down over the last week-plus, collecting hits here and there but also striking out quite a bit. However, the 20-year-old appeared locked in on Thursday night against the Javelinas.

"Definitely feeling a lot better," said Tellez, who's batting .278 with an .808 OPS and 10 RBIs through nine games in the Fall League. "I was kind of pressing a little bit and came in with high expectations. These pitchers are some of the best arms in their organizations, so you have to take it with a grain of salt when you're struggling and move on and get back to the basics.

"At the plate, I'm just making sure I'm seeing pitches and staying within myself and my approach. I'm working to make sure I hit my pitch -- and not the pitcher's pitch -- even if that means hitting with two strikes."

Tellez opened the season at Class A Lansing of the Midwest League, where he batted .296/.351/.444 with seven home runs and 19 doubles in 68 games before moving up to Class A Advanced Dunedin in late June.

The fact that Tellez was one of the younger everyday players in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Florida State League didn't hamper his production. Rather, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound first baseman thrived against the advanced competition, batting .275/.338/.473 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs in 35 games for Dunedin.

Overall, Tellez posted an impressive .289/.347/.454 batting line with 14 home runs, 24 doubles and 77 RBIs in 103 games between both stops. And it's safe to say he would have added to those totals had he not landed on the disabled list with a hand injury in early August.

"It was pretty eye-opening, learning that I wasn't invincible and that anything can happen," Tellez said about his season-ending injury. "It showed me that I need to come back stronger, and I'm just trying to do that and make sure my hand is healthy."

While Tellez is working on being more consistent at the plate this fall, his primary objective is to improve defensively at first base.

"Everything," said Tellez when asked specifically what he is working on at the position. "I grew up playing with and against Dom Smith, and he's a lights-out defender. So I've been picking his brain over there -- no pun intended -- on how he sets up and how he approaches defense and what goes through his head. He reassures me to keep it simple."

D-backs No. 29 prospect Daniel Palka got Salt River on the board in the bottom of the first inning, driving in leadoff man and Blue Jays No. 22 prospect Roemen Fields with a single through the left side of the infield. After advancing to second on a wild pitch, Palka swiped third base and scored on catcher Chance Sisco's errant throw.

Braves prospect Connor Lien scored Peoria's first run in the top of the fourth inning courtesy of an infield error, and D.J. Peterson, the Mariners' No. 3 prospect, tied the game in the following frame with an RBI double.

After that, however, it was all Rafters.

Nationals No. 23 prospect Chris Bostick, who finished the game 2-for-4, led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a booming triple to straightaway center field and came in to score on a sacrifice fly by Smith, the Mets' No. 5 prospect. The next batter for Salt River, Tellez, delivered a tape-measure home run to right field, depositing the ball three-quarters of the way up the berm.

Center fielder Raimel Tapia, the Rockies' No. 8 prospect, followed with a single to right field and then scored from first base on third baseman Emilio Guerrero's double into the left-field corner.

On the mound, Orioles No. 21 prospect Tanner Scott was impressive in his one inning of work out of the bullpen for Peoria, striking out two of the three batters he faced. The 21-year-old left-hander needed just seven pitches to complete the frame, three of which registered at 99 mph.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.
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