SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For the Washington Nationals, Kelvin Gutierrez is a name viewed with plenty of potential and excitement.The Nationals' No. 12 prospect's talent was on display Monday afternoon as his two-RBI triple in the second inning helped the Mesa Solar Sox defeat the Salt River Rafters, 8-4.• GamedaySigned out
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For the Washington Nationals, Kelvin Gutierrez is a name viewed with plenty of potential and excitement.
The Nationals' No. 12 prospect's talent was on display Monday afternoon as his two-RBI triple in the second inning helped the Mesa Solar Sox defeat the Salt River Rafters, 8-4.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Gutierrez played well for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nats and Class A Advanced Potomac in 2017 before missing three months due to a sprained ankle.
Despite his injury, the Nationals organization thought enough of Gutierrez to send him to the Arizona Fall League. His triple marked his first hit of the AFL after having played just one game due to injury.
"I'm really happy to be back on the field," Gutierrez said. "I feel bad that I've missed a lot of at-bats this year, and my idea was to come here and pick up those at-bats that I missed."
After going 0-for-4 in his first game with Mesa on Oct. 10, Gutierrez left the game in the top of the first inning on Oct. 12 after he had his hand spiked.
Despite another setback and being forced to come back from another injury, Gutierrez has been making an effort to take in the competition from around the league in order to stay prepared for his return.
"I've been doing my part observing the game," Gutierrez said. "I've just been staying aggressive and ready to come off the bench."
On a 1-2 pitch from Salt River starter Ryan Atkinson (D-backs), Gutierrez nearly hit it out as the ball caromed off the wall, allowing Kyle Tucker (Astros' No. 1, No. 7 in MLB) and Jason Vosler (Cubs) to score and give Mesa an early 2-0 lead.
Gutierrez later scored on a bases-loaded walk issued to Kody Eaves (Tigers) to extend the lead to 3-0.
"I was just looking to put the ball in play and got a good pitch to hit," Gutierrez said. "Whatever I can do to help the team win."
In 68 games split between Rookie-level and Class A, Gutierrez slashed .278/.340/.408 with 13 doubles, seven triples, two home runs and 17 RBIs. The 23-year-old has a relatively simple, flat stroke from the right side of the plate and displays hard contact across the entire field.
For now, Gutierrez is just grateful to be back on the field.
"I thank God that I feel healthy and I'm back at it," he said.
The offensive outpouring from shortstop Sheldon Neuse (Athletics' No.14) continued as he hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning to extend Mesa's lead to 7-2. He's now hit safely in eight of his past 10 games and has three homers on the season.
Brian Mundell (Rockies' No.14), Anthony Sandtander (Orioles' No. 9) and Steve Wilkerson (Orioles) each recorded two hits and an RBI for Salt River. Wilkerson hit his first homer of the season in the second inning.
Kyle McGowin (Nationals) moved to 2-0, striking out four in three innings of work, while Atkinson took the loss for Salt River to fall to 1-2.
With the win, Mesa continues to hold the top spot in the East Division with a record of 10-7, while Salt River dropped to 6-10-1.
Eddie Poe is a graduate journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is a part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.