Durham Bulls

Stability at 3rd helping Leonard find his hitting stroke

Durham Bulls' Patrick Leonard celebrates scoring a run with teammate Shane Peterson against the Charlotte Knights at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Durham Bulls' Patrick Leonard celebrates scoring a run with teammate Shane Peterson against the Charlotte Knights at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Durham Bulls

Patrick Leonard has settled in at his natural position and the results are showing for the Durham Bulls third baseman.

Leonard went 5 for 5 with a home run and a double on Thursday night against the Syracuse Chiefs as the Bulls won 13-3.

"I am seeing the ball well and I'm just trying to put some good swings on the ball," Leonard said. "Good things are happening."

Leonard jumped from third place in the International League in batting to the top spot. He improved his batting average 42 points in the game, raising it to .413 to jump ahead of previous leader Ruben Tejada of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Jason Leblebijian of Buffalo, the Bulls current opponent. He also went 2 for 3 on Friday night against the Bisons and increased his batting average to .423.

Leonard, 24, figured the last time his batting average was above .400 was in high school in Houston, Texas, where be played for former Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio.

Leonard recorded his second straight multi-hit game and it was the ninth overall for the IL leader in hits (31). He started off with a solo home run in the bottom of the second, he followed it up with a double and three singles.

"It was my first at bat and it was a 1-1 game," Leonard said of his home run.

Leonard said knowing every day when he comes to the ballpark that he will be playing third is a relief. During his last stint with the Bulls, Leonard often was moved around the diamond being plugged into whatever position — first base, third base or outfield — needed to be filled.

"I enjoy third, I like playing there," Leonard said. "It's good knowing that when I get to the field, if I'm playing, it's going to be third. Knowing where I am going to play takes the pressure off everywhere in the game."

He started last season in Durham, playing 42 games before being sent down to AA Montgomery for the second half. He batted .198 with no home runs and six RBIs for the Bulls but bounced back with the Biscuits, hitting .309 over the 41 games before going on the disabled list.

Bulls manager Jared Sandberg said Leonard will have more stability this season at third.

"He's a natural at third," Sandberg said. "He can play first. I've had him three or four years now in the minor leagues. He came here last season, his first time at the level, and put too much pressure on himself. He was playing out of position and not comfortable at all."

"He's at third. He's comfortable. It's helped him get off to a tremendous start," Sandberg said.

Sandberg was impressed by Leonard's 5-hit outburst.

"Any way you can get five hits is really, really good," Sandberg said. "Whether you start off with a home run off the bull or you get get that little blooper at the end, five hits is five hits and he'll take every single one of them."

Joe Johnson: 919-419-6889, @HPreps