Lemon's slam sweet for Surprise
Rangers prospect sparks early seven-run rally
Marcus Lemon said he doesn't keep track of his stats.
"Except home runs," he admitted with a laugh. "I know how many of those I've hit, I don't hit too many."
Lemon doubled his Arizona Fall League homer total with a grand slam to highlight a seven-run first inning as the Surprise Rafters topped the Peoria Javelinas, 8-6, on Thursday afternoon.
The Rangers' fourth-round pick in the 2006 Draft homered for the second time in five games, sending a 1-2 fastball from Anthony Varvaro to right field for a 7-1 lead.
"Yeah, anytime you get you get up in the first inning and you're hitting last, it's usually a sign it was a good inning for your team," said Lemon, Surprise's No. 9 hitter. "It was a big one for us. As you can see, seven runs was big with how the game played out."
Lemon's blast came moments after Peoria starter Justin Cassel (White Sox) walked Ruben Tejada (Mets) to load the bases and end his afternoon. Varvaro (Mariners) threw everything he had at Lemon, a 77-mph breaking ball followed by a 95-mph heater.
"I stepped in and I got two sliders, and then he missed with a fastball," said Lemon. "I fouled off a fastball, and he missed in again. He came back with another one and I got finally connected with that."
The 21-year-old Lemon, batting .346 this fall, has 12 hits in his last six games, with six RBIs and four runs scored over that span.
"I feel pretty good at the plate, but it's always a lot of work," he said. "It's progress, trying to figure out what you can do to find consistency at the plate. I haven't thought about about getting hits, I'm just trying to make solid contact, put it in play, hit the ball hard."
Lemon's solid AFL campaign has a twist -- after appearing in 126 games as an infielder in 2009 with Double-A Frisco, the Lakeland, Fla. native is spending much of his time out in center field.
"I've been working on pretty much everything, and I'm playing a position I usually don't play, so it's new for me," said Lemon, a second baseman squeezed into outfield duty after Surprise lost a handful of outfielders. "It's pretty laid-back here, coaches let you get your work in. Nothing is forced or stressed upon."
Lemon said the Rangers never asked him to swap positions, but the experience he gets in Arizona will surely add to his versatility down the road.
"They knew I'm athletic enough to go out and play. We had two of our outfielders sent home, so this has been an opportunity for me to get at-bats and play," said Lemon, whose father, Chet, played in the Majors. "We have five infielders, so I'm fine with any way I can get in the game. They saw it as a chance to get me in. If I was playing infield, I might not be able to do the things I've been able to do."
Lemon finished the 2009 regular season batting .262 with a homer and 41 RBIs for the RoughRiders in the Texas League. He hit .295 with eight long balls and 47 RBIs with Class A Advanced Bakersfield in 2008.
"I do better when I don't think numbers, although it's always in the back of your mind," he said. "It's more important to get the work in rather than the numbers. They see the results.
"Right now, for me, it's better to show them I can hit," he said. "And have fun."
In terms of 2010, Lemon is likely to see time at Triple-A Oklahoma City if the Rangers deem he's ready. He's not worried about where he'll begin, though.
"I'm working as hard as I can and we'll see what they decide. They'll let me know here soon or at Spring Training," he said. "If they see me at Frisco, or wherever, all I can do is get myself prepared and they'll put me where they need me."
Peoria took a 1-0 lead in the first, but Surprise stormed back in the bottom of the frame. Colin Curtis, a Yankees prospect hitting .391, smacked a go-ahead two-run double, former Royals first-rounder Mike Moustakas lined an RBI single and Lemon added his two-out slam moments later. Tejada chipped in a leadoff shot in the fourth off Phillippe Aumont (Mariners).
Jordan Danks (White Sox) stroked a two-run single and top Mariners pick Dustin Ackley and C.J. Retherford (White Sox) lined RBI singles in the fourth.
Cassel was charged with six runs on two hits and four walks, recording two outs in the first to suffer the loss.
Mets right-hander Jenrry Mejia picked up his first win of the fall despite allowing five runs -- four earned -- on five hits and two walks over 3 2/3 innings for Surprise.
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.