It was a year ago in Spring Training when Culver decided to abandon his switch-hitting ways and begin his career as solely a right-handed batter. It took him a while last season to get accustomed to the nuances that go along with that, including seeing breaking pitches from a different angle, and frankly he's still getting used to it now.
"[Spring Training] went good," Culver said. "I was just working on some stuff, getting more comfortable on the right side of the plate mainly. I think I did good.
"Specifically I was working on just trying to have good at-bats and just cleaning up my defensive stuff. I think I was really focused on what I had to do."
Defensively he would always like to smooth some things out but he knows improving his hitting is priority number one, especially since even though this is his fifth season in the Yankees organization, in a lot of ways he has had to start from scratch.
"I think my approach at the plate is good right now," he said. "I feel comfortable up there. I think I've been doing good with my situational hitting and scoring runs. Being that I am number two hitter I have to do all these little things for the team. So I've felt like I've been doing good with that.
"The biggest thing I want to work on is just working on righty righty because I stopped switching in last year and just getting more comfortable hitting breaking balls and stuff.
"I am a lot more comfortable than from last year. I feel like I have a chance every time up there to do something good. That's really come a long way, but I still have a long way to go."
The results have not exactly been for him there yet. He's hitting just .225 through his first 22 games with the high-A Tampa Yankees but his coaches can see a difference in him this season.
"My impressions were a guy that was very confident and comfortable with who he's starting to become as a hitter," hitting coach P.J. Pilittere said of Culver in Spring Training. "In camp, he was just repeating his approach very well.
"He looked, like I said, I hate to say the same word again, he's very confident right now. Or he was very confident then, going about his business. He had a really simple approach and he was able to repeat it.
"For him, his approach is to just be a consistent hitter that uses the whole field, doesn't try to force the ball the other way or doesn't try to hit balls over the fence. Those will all come naturally to him. We just want him to be himself and take consistent swings at good pitches."
In regards to this season, Pilittere isn't too concerned about Culver's slow start. He realizes that the results are just a snapshot in time and that Culver, regardless of the numbers, is getting better.
"I think he's done a pretty good job," he added. "I think he's come to the ballpark ready to get better every single day so far. He has a thirst to want to improve. He asks a lot of questions. He's a very encouraging player, and a guy I have high expectations for, but at the same time he's very intrigued and he's very insistent on getting better.
"He's had really good at-bats. He's seen a ton of pitches. He's been a tough out. He's battled his butt off. That's basically what he's done the best right now."
Pillittere has been keeping a keen eye on Culver, and he would like to see him improve and continue to get better.
"We actually talked today about it. Just learn himself as hitter more, and when he learns himself, and he learns what he can and can't do, the game will slow down for him and it will be easier for him to have a plan going into each at-bat and each pitcher."
This is not only Culver's second season batting just right-handed, but Pilittere, his hitting coach in Charleston last season too, has spent a ton of time with him during his offensive transition that past two seasons and he can't help but notice how much more comfortable Culver is this season batting just right-handed.
"Much more comfortable," Pilittere said emphatically. "You can slowly start to see a turn last year towards the end of the season. That's a tough challenge for any guy who's never seen a breaking ball from the right side. It's a tough challenge, and I think that's where a lot of his confidence has come from this year.
"He's seen it a bunch now and he doesn't feel, for lack of a better word, naked at the plate when he see's a breaking ball from a right handed pitcher and now he's got a better idea which ones to swing at, better swings at them when he decides to swing at them, and I like his improvement at-bat.
"My expectations for him this season is just to improve, continue to get better, and realize that he's a good hitter, not just a good defender. And he's a good player. My expectations for him are continue to want to improve like he does every day and get to the next level."
Tampa manager Al Pedrique has managed Culver for the past two seasons as well and while he also sees a more comfortable Culver at the plate, he also sees some other differences in him this season.
"He showed up in good shape," Pedrique said. "He was in great shape. He worked very hard on his defense, base running. He put in a lot of time and effort, and obviously the one thing that I liked was his work habits. They got so much better. Finally, I think he started to understand what it takes to get ready day in and day out. His preparation is a lot better.
"He was taking charge. He was taking the role as a leader. Showing that he can handle the pressure of being a leader on the team. Also, he spent a lot of time on his defense and offense.
"Offensively he's been working on staying inside the ball. He lacked drive, a lot of groundballs instead of hitting a lot of fly balls. He's trying to work on his mechanics, his balance, be able to see the ball travel. And defensively he was working on the forehand play and also his backhand.
"So far he's done a good job. He's been working very hard on a daily basis. He's been more aggressive on the field, taking charge and being the leader we know he can be. Defensively he's been playing great. He's been solid for us. Offensively, I think his swinging is starting to come around and he's starting to drive the ball with more authority."
Coming off of a career high .248 showing last season, some thirty points higher than his final season switch-hitting in 2012, Culver has shown he is slowly getting better. More importantly to his coaches, however, whatever the numbers may be, it is his confidence that continues to get better.
"I'm sure offensively his numbers will be better than last year. He's showing more confidence on his swing and on his approach," Pedrique concluded.
Culver Getting More Comfortable
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