Culver Pressing Forward

TRENTON, NJ - As the Yankees’ first round draft choice in 2010, Cito Culver was lauded for his ability to play strong defense at shortstop. Although he has proven he’s a high caliber fielder in 2015 with a .973 fielding percentage in 62 games at short, Culver’s bat continues to halt his development.

After beginning the season with the Trenton Thunder despite a .220 average with the Tampa Yankees in 2014, Culver struggled to adapt to Double-A pitching. His batting average fell down to .129 on May 6, and he eventually spent some time on the DL with a groin injury.

“I tweaked my groin, which is why I went on the DL, and that had a big effect on me not being able to get on my legs when I was hitting," Culver said. "That’s all fixed now, and I’m starting to feel a lot better at the plate.”

Culver admits that the groin injury really prohibited him from finding success and feeling comfortable at the plate.

“I don’t want to say there’s any single reason [I struggled], but I wasn’t completely healthy,” he said. “At the end of the day, I didn’t hit. It’s just part of the game, and I’m just trying to press forward.

I went on the DL, and I came back and felt a lot better physically. I think that has a big part to do with it — just being healthy and sticking with an approach has helped a lot.”

Since returning from the injury, Culver’s batting average, while not outstanding, has come a long way toward the Mendoza line. He currently stands at .200 thanks to a month of June where he batted .231.

The Thunder’s hitting coach, P.J. Pilittere, credits Culver’s slight improvements to removing some of the excess movement in his swing. However, he knows Culver has a lot of room to develop.

“We’ve simplified a lot of things, and I like the track that he’s on now,” Pilittere said. “His splits over the six weeks since he came back from injury have been pretty good. Obviously our conversations with him are that we’re not settling for pretty good, we want to get even better. I like where he’s at, but we’re by no means satisfied; we want to keep going.”

According to Cuvler, the simplification had a lot to do with developing a consistency with the placement of his hands.

“[We were working on] not so much the stance as much as the hands,” he said. “My hands have been up and down, so just trying to get them into a comfortable spot where I don’t have to move them a whole bunch to start my swing. That’s what I think has helped me be a little bit more consistent lately.”

Manager Al Pedrique is confident that Culver will eventually find his identity as a hitter, as long as he refrains from playing outside of his game and continues to work hard as he has been.

“At times, he wants to do too much instead of staying with himself and driving the ball the other way with consistency,” Pedrique said. “If he does that, I think he can be the hitter that he needs to be in order to play every day as a shortstop in the big leagues. He’s a hard worker, and he spends a lot of time in the cage with P.J., our hitting coach, and now is a time for him to take it to the game.”

While he continues to search for consistency at the plate, Culver takes solace in knowing that he can go out and contribute with the glove. As far as improving on that side of the ball, Culver just wants to make sure his pitchers have a sense of stability with him in the field.

“I just try to go out there and make the plays for the pitchers,” he said. “I want them to be comfortable knowing that I’m behind them. That’s a big thing for me. I want all of my pitchers on the mound to be happy that I’m out there.”

For now, Culver identifies his role on this team as a guy who must help set up the lineup behind him, while continuing to progress as an offensive player.

“There’s always room to grow, and baseball’s a game of adjustments,” he said “I’m never satisfied. I want to help this team win, and whatever I have to do to help this team — just get on base and do my job.”

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