10/24/11 7:34 PM ET
Panik over: Giants first-rounder back on track
San Francisco infielder blasts first AFL homer, extends hit streak
By Ashley Marshall / Special to MLB.com
Panik went 2-for-3 with his first homer of the fall, a two-run shot, and a walk in the Scottsdale Scorpions' 8-4 AFL loss to the Peoria Javelinas on Monday.
"It was a good feeling," said Panik, selected 29th overall in the June Draft by San Francisco. "It's nice to get that first one out of the way. Off the bat I knew it had gone."
Panik, who hit .341 with six homers and 54 RBIs in 69 games with short-season Salem-Keizer this year, raised his AFL average to .244 in the defeat. He has hit safely in each of his last six appearances, going 8-for-23 (.348) over that stretch.
Batting eighth in the Scottsdale lineup, Panik gave his team the lead in the second inning with a two-out, two-run homer off Peoria starter Anthony Bass (Padres). Panik took a change-up at the knees for a strike, but Bass missed with the next two pitches to fall behind in the count. Bass left his fourth offering -- a 92-mph fastball -- over the heart of the plate, and Panik turned on the pitch and sent it over the wall in right field.
"It's not part of my game, but you see a lot of guys in this league hitting home runs left and right, so it was nice to join them," said Panik, who will turn 21 on Sunday.
"It was important for us to get on the board early in the game. [Bass] started me off soft and I got into a fastball count. He gave me a good pitch to hit and I got some air under it. I was sitting on a fastball and looking for something I could drive."
Panik pulled a 3-1 fastball into right field for a two-out single in the fourth, and he flied out to center field to end the sixth. The New York native then led off the ninth frame with a nine-pitch walk against left-handed Jeff Ibarra (Padres) after fouling off a pair of tough fastballs to stay alive in the at-bat. That, Panik said, was arguably his best plate appearance of the afternoon.
"That pitcher is real tough lefty-on-lefty with his sliders and fastballs," he explained. "I was just doing what I could to get on base. That at-bat was more of who I am. I'm a grind-it-out type of player who finds a way to get on base."
Life in the Arizona Fall League did not come easily to Panik in the opening week of the season. The Northwest League's MVP and Postseason All-Star was hitless in five of his first six games, but he is confident the early blip is now behind him.
"Before the first week of the AFL, I hadn't seen live pitching since the first week of September," said Panik, a shortstop who has been playing second to make him more versatile. "It was just a matter of time getting into the swing of things. I'm right where I want to be now, and things are going the way I want.
"Playing with guys like Mike Trout who have big league experience teaches you about how you should be going about your business."
MLB.com's No. 1 prospect Trout (Angels) was 2-for-4 with a run scored and Nationals catching prospect Derek Norris homered, doubled, recorded two RBIs and scored twice in a losing effort.
Kentrail Davis (Brewers) went 2-for-3 with a double, two RBIs, two runs scored and a stolen base for Peoria, and Jedd Gyorko (Padres) doubled and plated two runs in the victory.
Mariners farmhand Steven Hensley (1-0) earned his first victory of the fall, scattering two hits and a walk while striking out two batters over two innings of relief. Washington's Pat Lehman (0-3) took the loss for the Scorpions after surrendering two runs on three hits in one inning of work.
Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.