Like all catchers in the Arizona Fall League, Cameron Rupp doesn't have an easy job. He has had to quickly learn the arsenals and tendencies of a staff full of pitchers with whom he has little to no experience. And he has to do it while preparing to hit against some of the best pitchers in the Minor Leagues.
Tuesday, Rupp performed both of his jobs admirably. He hit a home run and helped guide Peoria's staff through a 3-2 victory against Scottsdale at Surprise Stadium. It was the second win in as many days for the Javelinas against the Scorpions.
Rupp led off the eighth inning with his home run, his first of the fall. It came on the eighth pitch of his at-bat against right-hander Cody Satterwhite and proved to be a critical insurance run for the Javelinas.
"I've been struggling a little bit through the last few afternoons," Rupp said. "I wanted to see pitches, to see it deep [in the zone]. I fouled off a couple good pitches and then I hit a mistake."
Rupp, the Phillies' third-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, finished the game 1-for-3 with a walk. He is hitting .303 with a .455 slugging percentage in eight games in the AFL.
Rupp made his Major League debut earlier this season and knows the AFL has the reputation of being a "finishing school" for prospects. He is hoping to help add to that legacy.
"You see a lot of guys that played in this league that now have successful careers in the big leagues," Rupp said. "They established themselves and showed they can do it in this league. That's a positive for everybody that plays in it."
With Rupp behind the plate, six Javelinas pitchers combined to allow two runs on eight hits. They were led by right-hander Keyvius Sampson, who was making his first start in the AFL. The Padres' No. 15 prospect struck out three batters in three scoreless innings.
Rupp said Sampson rebounded well after allowing a double and a walk in the first inning.
"He struggled a little bit in first inning," Rupp said. "He was nibbling a little bit. Then he got right back in the zone and pitched to contact."
Despite a good game from Peoria's pitchers, Scottsdale had a chance to win the game in the ninth. Peter O'Brien cut the Scorpions' deficit to one run with a solo home run, his fourth of the fall, off right-hander Dominic Leone. Gift Ngoepe hit a two-out single, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate, but Leone got a groundout to end the game.
O'Brien finished the game 1-for-4. Alen Hanson, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, went 2-for-4 with a double and a stolen base.
Between his home run and the Javelinas' victory, Rupp said he feels like he's gotten out of his rut at the plate. Now he hopes to keep that going through the season's final three weeks.
"[I want to keep] working with pitchers that I haven't really had any kind of past with and learning guys' tendencies and how they like to pitch," Rupp said. "Offensively, I want to stay consistent and finish strong."