January 29, 2023

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Duran's scorching May continues for RoughRiders

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Ezequiel Duran was 4-for-4 with two homers, two doubles, four RBIs and four runs scored through his first four at-bats on Sunday afternoon. His next two trips to the plate may have been his least exciting in the box score but the most exciting to his manager.

MLB’s No. 81 overall prospect reached base five times, drove in five runs and scored five and helped lead Double-A Frisco to an 18-4 rout of Tulsa to wrap up a six-game set.

Already working on one of his best games of a breakout season, Duran stayed locked in for his final two trips to the dish, earning a walk in the top of the eighth and cashed in Frisco’s final run with a sacrifice fly to center in the ninth. Of all the impressive moments the 22-year-old put on display on Sunday, those stood out.

“I would say that’s a definite sign of maturity, of that maturity coming, because that is tough for hitters,” raved RoughRiders manager Jared Goedert. “They want to think, ‘Hey, I’m happy with my day, I’m content with my day.’ One, just to not give away the at-bat in general, but then to draw a walk, I was pretty impressed with him on that.

“For Zeke there to kind of approach that fifth at-bat just like he approached the previous four today definitely showed a level of maturity that we’d like to see there.”

Make no mistake, Duran’s loud contact is still the headline from his series finale showing, and it’s a continuation of the infielder’s outstanding May. Duran got the RoughRiders started in the top of the first when, out of the cleanup spot, he hammered a three-run homer to left-center. In the third, he doubled to left field and followed with a double to center an inning after that. In the sixth, Duran connected on a solo shot to left-center.

“Today what stood out was when he got a pitch over the heart of the plate or a pitch he was looking for, the at-bat was over,” Goedert said. “He drove it forward. It just happened to be that two of those were for doubles and two were for homers. Then to kind of top it off, being 4-for-4, he didn’t necessarily get greedy but stayed disciplined and drew a walk his last at-bat. I think that was as exciting as anything, if that’s even possible on a day when you have four extra-base hits.”

Texas’ No. 4 prospect headed into Sunday with just three homers in his first 30 games this year. The series finale gave him his first multihomer game since last July 20 and continued a scorching month for Duran, who has batted .389/.407/.778 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 13 May games.

“You definitely have that feeling every time with him in the box,” Goedert said. “It’s like, OK, something very cool could happen right here. I think one thing that may be helping him is the strength of our lineup one through nine in that he’s not the only guy that we have to rely on for production offensively. With that, that can naturally take pressure off yourself as a hitter and just go have a good at-bat. If you don’t happen to [come through] that at-bat, there’s likely a guy ahead of or a guy behind you who’s going to.”

Traded to the Rangers last year as the headliner in a prospect package the Yankees sent in exchange for Joey Gallo, Duran struggled in his new organization. With High-A Hickory, he batted just .229/.287/.408 in 38 games after the deal compared with .290/.374/.533 for High-A Hudson Valley in 67 contests prior to the trade. In 2022, he’s rejuvenated.

“He’s had time to get his feet underneath him,” Goedert said. “Being traded, there’s a lot that goes into that, and to try to go out and perform, you feel like maybe you need to do a little extra to impress your new teammates and your new organization, I would imagine — I don’t want to put words into his mouth — there’s a little bit more of a comfort factor [this year], I’d like to think.”

Sunday’s showing came after Duran’s first consecutive hitless games of the season and simply reaffirmed his manager’s confidence.

“First and foremost, he’s just a good baseball player,” Goedert said. “He’s a talented baseball player who has an enthusiasm to play the game. The physical talents kind of jump out right away, but what I enjoy most about him is that he has an enthusiasm to play. He loves getting in the box. He likes to play defense, and then he wants to run the bases when he’s on the bases. That’s a pretty nice combination right there to match the enjoyment of playing the game with the talent that he has.”

Duran’s five RBIs were tied for the game high along with Frisco third baseman Trey Hair, who belted three home runs. Hair entered the day with one homer for the season and just two multihit games, both in April, before going 3-for-5 with long balls in the second, third and seventh innings.

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