SAN DIEGO -- When Hunter Renfroe was optioned to Triple-A El Paso on Aug. 19, he sat four home runs shy of the Padres' rookie home run record. With no guarantee of another callup, the right fielder seemed unlikely to reach Nate Colbert's 24.
Since his return Monday, Renfroe has eliminated almost all doubt regarding whether he will end the season with the most home runs by a San Diego rookie. After hitting a three-run blast in his first at-bat back in the big leagues, Renfroe slugged three more home runs in Wednesday's 13-7 loss to Arizona, becoming the first Padres player with a three-homer game since Phil Nevin in 2001.
With El Paso, Renfroe hit .509 and pushed the Chihuahuas a game shy of a second consecutive Pacific Coast League title. He focused on having less movement in his hands.
"Kind of keep it still and try to make it as quiet as possible," Renfroe said. "But still keep the explosiveness."
It clearly remained as Renfroe posted the first three-homer game by a Padres rookie. His first of the night was San Diego's 178th of 2017, re-establishing a franchise record set only last year. The second was the team's record-tying 83rd at Petco Park.
They both came off D-backs lefty Robbie Ray, as Renfroe continued to assault left-handed pitching. After Wednesday's shots off Ray, Renfroe is slashing .340/.424/.718 off lefties.
"He's crushed lefties all year long," manager Andy Green said. "... I know he's got real power. You don't tie a rookie home run record spending a month in the Minor Leagues if you don't have ridiculous power."
Even more confidence-invoking was his ninth-inning laser off right-hander Braden Shipley. Renfroe, who's hitting .199 off right-handers, called it the best of the trio as he achieved the first three-homer game of his professional career.
It was also the ninth homer of Wednesday's clash at Petco Park, setting another ballpark record.
Green was most impressed, though, with Renfroe's attentiveness on defense, specifically mentioning his jump on a Daniel Descalso fly ball in the sixth. The Padres sent Renfroe down after he hit .220 with no home runs in August while struggling on defense. His nine errors led Major League right fielders at the time of his demotion.
"I'm probably the only person in the ballpark who will say this," Green said. "He hits three home runs, that's probably what everyone else in the ballpark will fixate on. I look out in right field on a break on a shallow fly ball, and it was the best jump I've ever seen him get. That excites me more, because that, to me, is real growth, getting after his defense."
Like the three before it, Renfroe's next home run will include a record. He'll likely become the first Padres rookie to hit 25 home runs, his monthlong demotion only a footnote.
"This is a really cool moment," Renfroe said. "Hope to do it again."