SAN DIEGO -- Even for Rich Hill -- the owner of one of baseball's best curveballs -- it's probably not a good idea to fall behind in the count and leave one over the plate against Hunter Renfroe.In the fourth inning of the Padres' 3-1 defeat at Dodger Stadium on
SAN DIEGO -- Even for Rich Hill -- the owner of one of baseball's best curveballs -- it's probably not a good idea to fall behind in the count and leave one over the plate against Hunter Renfroe.
In the fourth inning of the Padres' 3-1 defeat at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night, Renfroe demolished Hill's hook 398 feet into the left-field seats. It marked his first homer of the season -- and his fourth in six games against the Dodgers.
No one has ever doubted Renfroe's power. It's patience that too often eluded the rookie slugger during his four years in the Minors.
Wednesday's blast served as a perfect example of what Renfroe is capable of when he works himself into favorable counts.
"Hunter, if he's staying in the strike zone, is going to be as deadly of a hitter as there is in the big leagues," said Padres manager Andy Green. "That's a big challenge for him, but he's showing some really good signs."
After the game, Renfroe pointed to his first at-bat before even mentioning the homer. He worked himself into a full count before watching a 3-2 hook. The pitch looked to be two inches off the outside corner, but home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild called it strike three.
"I thought I had a really good at-bat the first half-inning," Renfroe said. "I thought it was a ball, called a strike, oh well, moved on. [In the fourth], he left one I could hit, and I got good barrel to it, hit it out of the ballpark."
In fourteen Major League games, Renfroe now has five homers, but he has yet to draw an unintentional walk. At Triple-A El Paso last season, he homered 30 times, compared with just 22 walks in 563 plate appearances.
Those numbers prompt a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg question. Will Renfroe's prodigious power ultimately force teams to pitch around him, leading to better on-base numbers? Or will Renfroe need to draw walks to ultimately force opposing pitchers into the strike zone?
"Patience leads to more power," Green answered quickly. "The more he stays within his strengths and stays within the strike zone, he's going to hit more and more home runs. ... It's a challenge, though. You look through his minor league pedigree, it's been a challenge for him to take the walk. But it's ridiculous power when he hits the baseball. We still want him aggressive, so he's walking that fine line. He's learning that right now."
He's learning. But fellow slugger William Myers doesn't want Renfroe changing his approach.
"I hope he doesn't try to walk this year," Myers said. "I hope he goes up there ready to hit and the walks come. You don't walk by going up there trying to take a walk. You go walk by being aggressive in your zone, and then you spit on pitches.
"He'll get there. He's a great hitter. He's going to be a great player in this league."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.