At first glance, Kyle Russell does not look like a protypical power hitter.
The newest Albuquerque Isotope is not a bulky slugger, but a lanky, 6-foot-5 athlete who generates the type of bat speed that has resulted in 83 career home runs in three-and-a-half minor-league seasons.
“I think he’s going to do real well if he starts (his swing) early,” hitting coach John Valentin said. “His home run (Saturday), he didn’t quite get started early in his first two at-bats, but he did better his last pitch. Great adjustment.”
Russell’s personality also fits the Isotopes’ laid-back clubhouse.
“It’s a lot more relaxed,” Russell said of Albuquerque. “Guys are veteran guys that have been up in the big leagues. It’s good to be around a relaxed group. It makes it a lot easier to go out and play some baseball. We’ve been doing that the past two days.”
Russell has gone 3-for-5 with a home run and two RBI in his first two games at Triple-A.
Baseball America ranked him as the Dodgers’ No. 15 prospect entering the season.
He was batting .259 with 19 home runs and 69 RBI with Double-A Chattanooga when he got the call to join Albuquerque on Thursday. With only a handful of games left in the season and the Lookouts in playoff contention in the Southern League, the move did catch Russell by surprise.
“They have their own decisions and you have to run with it, keep on going with it,” Russell said. “You can’t wonder what they’re going to do. You just have to go forward.”
Russell had actually played at Isotopes Park before this season, though it was six years ago, long before he became a major prospect at the University of Texas.
“I like it here,” Russell said. “I actually came here when I was in high school in an All-American game (in 2005). I actually hit a double off that hill (in center field) with a metal bat, all 170 pounds of me.
“But yeah, it’s a great ballpark. The ball flies. Great fans, as well.”
Russell has been good luck for the Isotopes (68-67), who have won both of the games he has been played in. Both victories saw the combination of strong pitching and plenty of offense by Albuquerque’s lineup.
“They say that hitting is contagious and I believe in that 100 percent,” said Russell as Valentin stood nearby, listening intently. “One guy can do some damage and then the next thing you know it’s like a domino effect. Everyone keeps on hitting.”
Valentin interjected, “Don’t forget the hitting coach.”
Russell did not skip a beat.
“You’ve got to give credit to John Valentin,” he said with a smile. “He’s one of the best hitting coaches ever. He’s the man. Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame, write that down.”
Russell and the Isotopes will wrap up their home schedule Sunday at 6:05 p.m.
Around the Lab
- Heading into the last home game, the team’s statistical leaders at Isotopes Park are as follows — batting average: Russ Mitchell and Ivan De Jesus Jr., .354; hits: Jamie Hoffmann, 81; runs: Jerry Sands, 52; home runs: Sands, 19; RBI: Sands, 61; stolen bases: Dee Gordon, 24; wins: Dana Eveland, six; ERA: Randy Keisler, 4.53; saves: Jon Link, 4; innings: Eveland, 78.1; strikeouts: John Ely, 53. As a team, the Isotopes have gone 41-30 at home.
- Through 70 games, the Isotopes had 564,808 fans pass through the gates for an average of 8,068 fans. That mark is the third best in the Pacific Coast League, trailing only Round Rock (8,465 fans) and Sacramento (8,329).
- The Isotopes handed out their annual player awards prior to Sunday’s game. Among the trophies voted on by the players themselves Hoffmann picked up most valuable player, Eveland was named pitcher of the year, Mitchell earned best defensive player, Sands got power hitter of the year and Joe Becker took home Mr. Hustle. The team’s front office picked Damaso Espino as the most community minded, while this year’s fan favorite was John Lindsey, who also took home the award last year.