Hawks' Encarnacion tearing it up at the plate

The Hawks outfielder is hitting nearly .400 in 26 games since returning to Boise after a call-up.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.com © 2013 Idaho StatesmanAugust 30, 2013 

Every member of the Boise Hawks wants to contribute as much as they can, but naturally, in the back of their minds, they want to move on.

That’s the reality of life in short-season Class A baseball, but sometimes that cherished call-up shows that being in Boise might be a better fit for the time being.

Take Kevin Encarnacion.

The outfielder hit .298 in 13 games in Boise before being sent to Class A Kane County in late June. The 21-year-old Dominican hit .217 in 16 games with the Cougars before being sent back to the Hawks.

“I was a little disappointed, but I wasn’t going to have my head down — I had to get better offensively, and I think I’m doing it now,” Encarnacion said through teammate Rony Rodriguez, who translated. “… it maybe just wasn’t the right time for me to be up there.”

Upon his return on July 30, Encarnacion has torn up Northwest League pitching, with hits in 23 of his 26 games, going 43-for-108 — a .398 average. He had two hits Thursday for the Hawks, including his seventh home run in 39 games with the Hawks, a three-run blast to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.

“He’s been on a tear, and that’s probably putting it lightly,” Hawks manager Gary Van Tol said. “He’s been the catalyst for us offensively. He adjusts to wherever he is in the lineup — leading off, he’s taking pitches, getting on base, and recently he’s been third, hitting with authority, with power.”

With two strong power hitters behind him, Encarnacion can’t be pitched around, though he has drawn 20 walks and has nine steals. Encarnacion says his approach doesn’t change much, wherever he’s batting — his goal is the same.

“I just want to get on base, help us get some runs,” said Encarnacion, whose on-base percentage is .443 this season with Boise.

While he sets the tone offensively, Encarnacion is also a magnetic presence because of his seemingly boundless energy, which often is contagious for his teammates when the going is good or in time for a much-needed rally. There is a flipside to that, when perhaps a call doesn’t go his way or a celebration gets a tad excessive.

“He realizes sometimes those emotions sometimes might get the best of him and have a negative impact, but that’s part of the development process for us,” Van Tol said. “For me, I’d rather have a guy like that who you might have to pull on the reins a bit instead of having to light a fire under them.”

Encarnacion takes pride in that energy, and it has come at a good time with the Hawks chasing down a playoff berth. He also has been pleased with his offensive output, which he hopes to keep up through next week’s playoffs.

“Everyone’s doing well right now, I’m doing well right now, and hopefully I can help us win a championship,” Encarnacion said.

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