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Mariners Prospect Harry Ford Begins To Find His Stride At Low-A Modesto

Harry Ford (1)
Harry Ford (Courtesy of Gail Verderico)

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.—After a rough start to his first full season, Harry Ford is beginning to find his stride for Low-A Modesto.

Ford went 4-for-5 with two triples, a home run and five RBIs to lead Modesto to a 17-9 win over Inland Empire on Sunday night. It was the first four-hit game of his professional career and marked the highlight of a turnaround that started when June began.

Ford, the Mariners No. 6 prospect, has reached base in every game he’s played this month and has a .912 OPS since June 1. It’s been a welcome rebound for the 19-year-old catcher after he hit .209 with two home runs and a .661 OPS the first two months of the season.

“Just being out here for the last 4-5 months, stuff is starting to feel more natural, I guess,” Ford said. “It’s just a learning process.”

The Mariners drafted Ford in the first round, No. 12 overall, out of North Cobb High in Kennesaw, Ga., last year after he impressed general manager Jerry Dipoto and other club executives during a pre-draft batting practice. Ford was more widely renowned for his plus speed, rare for a catcher, but the Mariners believed strongly enough in his bat to select him a tick higher than industry consensus.

At first, it wasn’t clear that faith would be rewarded. Ford showed solid strike-zone discipline and pitch recognition from the outset—he had a .370 on-base percentage even during his first two months of this season—but he struggled to be on time with his swing and did little damage when he made contact.

Injuries were part of the reason. He dealt with shoulder tightness that ultimately caused him to miss nearly two weeks at the start of May and suffered a sprained ankle that caused him to miss another five days toward the end of the month.

Getting healthy was part of the solution. Two other big changes occurred prior to Sunday’s game.

First, Nuts manager Austin Knight moved Ford into the No. 3 spot in the lineup for the first time this year. He’d previously hit in the No. 2 spot early in the season before moving into the leadoff spot in mid-May. Second, Modesto hitting coach Michael Fransoso and Mariners minor league field coordinator Louis Boyd had a meeting with Ford before the game that Knight described as “impactful.”

“It was just ‘We want you to know that we all believe in you and we’re not panicked and we’re not worried,’ ” Knight said. “He’s seeing the ball wall, but there is a next step that he is ready to step into. And he did it.”

Ford walked in his first plate appearance—his 12th walk in only 10 games this month—before unleashing a season’s worth of frustration on the 66ers pitching staff.

In the third inning, Ford launched a triple off the wall in straightaway center field and scored after the throw to third base got away on an error. He followed with a single in the fifth inning to kickstart a three-run frame and help Modesto take a commanding 7-1 lead.

That was just the appetizer for what was to come.

Ford blasted another triple off the center-field wall in the sixth inning to bring home two more runs and get the rout started. The two-run triple traveled an estimated 414 feet, according to Trackman, and would have been a home run to any other part of the ballpark.

After coming up just short of a home run in the sixth, Ford got it in the seventh. Facing Inland Empire lefthander Joey Walsh, he got a 1-1 breaking ball on the outer half of the plate and hit it 405 feet the other way over the wall in right-center field for an opposite-field, three-run homer.

As Ford rounded third base, he celebrated with a Euro Step with third base coach Ryan Scott.

“Being a first-rounder, I know I’m expected to do a lot better than I have been doing,” Ford said. “It’s been a little frustrating but I know it’s going to work out in the end. (Tonight) is not really a weight off because I know I can do it. It’s just a nice feeling.”

In only 10 games this month, Ford has as many home runs as he had the first two months of the season. He already has four extra-base hits this month after having only five in the first two months combined. He’s raised his OPS by 65 points since the end of May and is slowly but surely improving his batting average, too.

Ford still has a long way to go to fully shake off his poor early-season performance, but as he loudly showed Sunday night, he’s moving in the right direction.

“That’s what we all know he’s capable of,” Knight said. “That’s obviously an extra special night, but we know that’s the type of player he’s capable of being.”

Jack Leiter Courtesyvanderbilt

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