Renfroe blasts off in return to big leagues

Padres outfielder, among 5 callups, homers in first AB

Renfroe blasts off in return to big leagues

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres added some depth across the board Monday, with Hunter Renfroe headlining a list of five callups to the big league roster. The outfielder didn't wait long to make his presence felt.

One day after Triple-A El Paso saw its season come to an end, Renfroe, fellow outfielder Travis Jankowski, infielder Christian Villanueva, catcher Rocky Gale and right-hander Tim Melville all joined the big league club. In his first at-bat back with the Padres, Renfroe blasted a three-run home run to center field, propelling San Diego to a 4-2 victory over the D-backs.

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"It was humbling," Renfroe said of his time in Triple-A. "You go down for a reason. You either grow from it or you fail from it. Obviously, I wanted to grow from it and become a better player."

In 14 regular-season games for El Paso, Renfroe batted .509/.557/.891 with four home runs.

But when he was sent down Aug. 19, he was mired in a slump that saw him bat .227/.277/.420 after the All-Star break. He posted a .551 OPS in August and finished Monday's game 1-for-3.

"Whatever he does in the next few weeks, there's so much to work on, because he has so much potential," Padres manager Andy Green said. "We're pleased with a lot of the things he does. As we go into the offseason, we want to see a guy that's on fire to impact a game in a major way every single day."

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When the Padres sent Renfroe to El Paso, they asked him to work on shortening his hand motions in his swing, along with shoring up his plate discipline and defense.

"You never expect to get sent down on the day you get sent down," Renfroe said before the game. "But obviously, I had not played well up to that point. You never can take anything for granted."

As for Jankowski, he was placed on the disabled list in April after breaking a bone in his left foot on a foul ball. When he fully recovered from the injury in August, he had ceded his big league roster spot to Jose Pirela.

Some might consider 2017 a lost season for Jankowski, but he doesn't. Jankowski is quick to note the work he put in on his swing with Triple-A hitting coach Morgan Burkhart. His overall numbers aren't great, but he's batting .353 in the past three weeks. He's hoping that success carries over.

"That's the biggest part, going out there, trying to make a statement in some way, opening eyes in some way," Jankowski said. "Whether that's elite defense, hitting, stealing bases, I want to go out there and make an impact."

The Padres' callups came one day after El Paso fell to Memphis in a decisive Game 5 of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series.

Villanueva, who plays first and third base, starred for the Chihuahuas all season, batting .296/.369/.528 with 20 homers. He went 0-for-3 Monday in his big league debut.

Gale, a grizzled veteran after eight seasons in the Minors, will be embarking on his second big league stint. He was also a September callup for San Diego in 2015. He batted .278/.328/.365 this year, and pitchers have raved about his ability to manage games.

Melville, meanwhile, was a late-August waiver claim from Minnesota. He posted a 2.95 ERA in 13 appearances (12 starts) at Triple-A. The Padres plan to use him out of the bullpen.

To clear room for Gale and Villanueva, who were not on the 40-man roster, the Padres designated shortstop Dusty Coleman and right-hander Jose Valdez for assignment.

"We feel like all those guys provide some real value to us for the rest of September as far as what they could mean to the future of our organization," Green said.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

Nathan Ruiz is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.