Laird slugs long home run for Phoenix

Laird slugs long home run for Phoenix

Brandon Laird looked the part of an aspiring Bronx Bomber on Monday.

Laird smacked his fourth home run -- a mammoth shot to left that bounced out of the stadium -- as Phoenix tied Mesa, 5-5, in the Arizona Fall League on Monday.

"The ball was flying out pretty good today," said Laird. "I got it pretty good."

The ball bounced off the outfield lawn in left, a little over 410 feet away, and kept going, coming to a stop an estimated 500 feet away from the plate.

"I'll take it," he added.

Laird, coming off a monster season at the highest two levels of the Minor Leagues, ended a 12-game homer drought with a two-run drive in the third inning off Pirates starter Justin Wilson after Michael Taylor (A's) was hit by a pitch.

"I just had an approach to try and drive in a run, get on base any way I can," said Laird, who hit a changeup. "I'd faced him a couple times this season, so I was pretty familiar. I was fortunate that he left a pitch up. I put a good swing on it."

Laird has 19 RBIs in 24 games, although he's struggled at times -- he's hitting .224 and had six hits over his previous 10 starts.

"I'm just working on some things in the outfield and trying to get more familiar," he said. "Mentally, it's a grind, so I'm doing whatever I can to battle."

Laird won most of his battles in 2010, hitting .281 with 25 homers and 102 RBIs in 138 games between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was the Eastern League's Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year, a two-time league All-Star, the Player of the Month for May and the Player of the Week on June 1.

He's kept it up in Arizona, earning a spot in the AFL Rising Stars Showcase earlier this month.

"I was pretty satisfied [with my season]," he said. "I started off slow this year, but the the consistency was there pretty much all year, I stayed with my approach and the numbers were there for me."

The big question facing Laird: Is he ready to reach the Bronx in 2011? He hit .246 in 31 games at Triple-A this past summer, but he's due to get a good look from the Yankees this spring.

"I got up to Triple-A, so that's one step closer to New York," said Laird, whose brother, Gerald, has spent eight years in the Majors. "I'm going to go up with my confidence and do what I did last year -- play my game and not try to do too much. Just let everything happen and show them I'm ready for the big leagues."

Laird has also gotten some guidance this fall from a familiar name, Phoenix manager Don Mattingly, a Yankees icon who will begin his first season as skipper of the Dodgers in 2011.

"It's been a great experience. He's a great guy and great coach, he really knows the game," Laird said of Mattingly. "He's had success in his career, so it's a good experience to play for someone like that. He helps me as much as he can with advice, so I'm just taking in as much as I can."

NOTES: Matt Rizzotti (Phillies), John Tolisano (Jays), Andrew Lambo (Pirates) and Jordy Mercer (Pirates) drove in runs for Mesa. ... Brewers starter Dan Merklinger allowed two runs on four hits and a walk over 3 1/3 innings for the Desert Dogs. ... Justin Wilson (Pirates) started for Mesa and was charged with two runs on six hits over 3 1/3 frames. ... The game ended in a tie in accordance with Arizona Fall League rules.

Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.