Rowdy Tellez said he felt the jitters Saturday before the first Triple-A game of his baseball career. No one would have guessed.
The top Toronto Blue Jays prospect on the Buffalo Bisons’ roster announced his arrival in town by hitting home runs on each of his first two at-bats.
The blasts led the Herd to a 4-2 Opening Day victory over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on a crisp, sunny afternoon at Coca-Cola Field.
“I have butterflies every game, regardless what it is,” Tellez said. “I don’t know why, but it’s a good feeling. If I don’t feel like I have butterflies then something’s wrong.”
Tellez is an imposing, left-handed hitting first baseman from California. He was rated the No. 6 prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays organization by Baseball America and No. 5 by MLB.com.
Only 22, Tellez excelled for New Hampshire in his first exposure to Double-A last season. He hit .297 with a career-high 23 home runs. He ranked second in the Eastern League in on-base percentage (.387) and third in slugging (.530).
“Rowdy can cover the whole plate,” said Bisons manager Bobby Meacham. “He’s just developing his power. But he’s a really good hitter. You watch him in batting practice, he uses the whole field. I’m still trying to figure out why everybody shifts on him, because he hits a lot of ground balls to the left side, too. . . . He studies the game. He’s a good baserunner and he keeps working on his defense.”
At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Tellez looks like a prototypical home-run hitter. Not really true, Meacham said.
“When I think home run hitter, I think 30, 40 home runs,” Meacham said. “I think he’s just developing his swing to where it drives the ball out of the ballpark.”
Tellez showed discipline on his first-at bat by taking a 3-1 fastball up and away to the opposite field. It carried well over the 371-foot mark in left center.
On his next at bat, he drilled a letter-high inside fastball that went like a bullet into the right-field bleachers.
“On a 3-1 count, I was looking for my pitch,” Tellez said. “And after I hit the fastball the other way, I figured they were going to come inside with a fastball.”
Tellez has risen steadily in the Jays’ system after being taken in the 30th round of the 2013 Draft. He is not viewed as an elite athlete for a top prospect. But he has fared reasonably well against left-handed pitching and he shows plate discipline. He doesn’t strike out a ton.
Tellez said he told himself not to treat his first Triple-A game as extra special.
“It’s all the same,” he said. “I tell myself it’s a game. I’m fortunate enough to play a game for a living. I just go out and have fun, play the game the right way. There’s nothing really to worry about.”
The long-term path to a big-league job for Tellez potentially got clearer in the offseason when Toronto lost star first baseman Edwin Encarnacion to Cleveland in free agency.
The last Bison to hit two homers on Opening Day game was Ernie Young in 2005.