Laird seeks balance with Rafters

Yankees' Laird seeks balance with Rafters

The Arizona Fall League is a good place for players to work on their mechanics. But Brandon Laird has found it to be a prime opportunity to work on his mental game as well.

"The last few games I'd been in a little funk," Laird said. "I wanted to stay with the same approach, work on it in the batting cages and not make a bigger deal of it than it was."

That philosophy paid off for Laird and Surprise on Wednesday afternoon. The Yankees' third-base prospect got the Rafters off to a good start with an RBI single in the first inning and a two-run homer in the second en route to a 10-5 victory over the visiting Scottsdale Scorpions.

Laird's shot was the first of four longballs lofted by Surprise. Tyler Henley hit a solo shot in the third, and Nick Evans and Marcus Lemon both teed off in the eighth.

"He had two strikes on me. I was just battling, looking for something I could drive," Laird said. "He threw a hanging slider. It felt real good. I haven't had one in a while."

But the Yankees' 27th-round pick in 2007 has been more interested in his consistency than his home run total. He changed his batting stance slightly so he would be more balanced in the batter's box, but focused on his frame of mind.

"I started off hot, then I cooled off a little bit," said Laird, who is batting .328 through 15 AFL games. "It's about not getting down on yourself for something real little."

Laird hit .266 with 75 RBIs and 53 runs over 124 games with Class A Advanced Tampa this year. He was eager to head to Arizona and play alongside many friends and former opponents.

"This is where the best talent is and I think I belong here," he said.

And ultimately he'd like to belong in the Bronx, competing alongside fellow Yankees in the World Series.

"It's exciting just watching them play," Laird said. "They are guys I've looked up to almost my whole life. They're the New York Yankees, it would be like a dream come true. Hopefully they'll bring it home tonight."

Henley (Cardinals) finished a triple shy of the cycle and scored two runs, while Lemon (Rangers), Evans (Mets) and Bryan Anderson (Cardinals) also crossed the plate twice.

The Cardinals' Mike Parisi picked up his second win despite allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks over four innings.

Thomas Neal (Giants) collected three hits, including a two-run homer, in the losing effort. Jose Tabata (Pirates) added three hits, an RBI and a run. He is batting .365 over 17 AFL games and has hit in eight straight.

Paige Schector is an editor for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.