In his first game back on Tuesday after spending a week recovering, Colin Curtis went 3-for-5 with a walk, a double, a triple and four runs scored in a 9-1 victory over the Binghamton Mets. He had entered the day batting just .204 in 27 games with the Thunder.
"Guess a little time off did some good," Curtis said. "I don't know if there was one thing [wrong], I think it my swing was a little off. I was just trying to push it too hard to fix it instead of letting it fix itself."
Curtis scabbed his knee sliding into second base against Erie on July 24. The cut started to swell and became infected, putting Curtis on antibiotics and out of the lineup. But it turned out to be just what he needed.
Curtis, the Yankees' fourth round pick in the 2006 draft out of Arizona State, earned a promotion to Double-A in late June after hitting .298 with five home runs in 65 games for High-A Tampa.
But the 22-year-old left-hander struggled upon arriving in the Eastern League. However, he said it was not because he was overmatched — it was just bad timing.
"It's just a slump," Curtis said. "I've had them tons of times in past, and I'm sure it won't be last my one. It just so happens that I hit it right when I got here."
There is no better way to bust out of a slump than by playing the Eastern League Northern Division cellar-dwelling Binghamton Mets, especially when your team sits in first place.
Curtis drew a walk against B-Mets starting pitcher Marcos Carvajal in the first. An inning later he tripled off the right-center field wall [B-Mets center fielder Miguel Negron and right fielder Caleb Stewart both might have had a chance at the catch, but a seeming lack of communication saw the ball land between them].
He doubled to right in the sixth again on a hard liner in the gap, and topped off his night with a solid single to shallow center in the ninth.
"He stayed through the middle of the field," said Trenton hitting coach Tom Wilson of Curtis. "He drove a couple of balls into right-center field, he utilized the middle of the field and the balls he drove were line drives — they weren't fly balls."
"I was just trying to be easy and square up the ball and not try and do too much with it," Curtis said.
Curtis was actually performing better than his batting average would have one believe, both he and Wilson said.
"He was having a lot of quality at-bats," Wilson said of Curtis' slump, "which is something our organization stresses. You might not get hits all the times that you have a quality at-bat; sometimes a quality at-bat might be you see nine pitches and you end up striking out, but you still had a good at-bat. I think the numbers and the batting average are not indicative of how he was doing."
In the following game, a 5-2 B-Mets victory, Curtis had a busy sixth inning in the field. Caleb Stewart hit a bases loaded double into the left field corner that ricocheted beyond Curtis along the warning track toward center field, clearing the bases.
"It hit the gate to the bullpen," Curtis said. "There's a metal pole there. I mean I practiced [the caroms] in batting practice, but that's like the one spot on the whole wall where it doesn't bounce back straight back to you, so it's kind of just tough luck."
Two batters later, J.E. Cruz hit a liner to left that Curtis almost turned into a highlight-worthy play, diving with full extension to his right as he moved in on the ball. It went off the tip of his glove for a double. If the carom showed that Curtis still has work to do in the field, the dive displayed the highlight-reel potential Curtis also has.
"It hit off the end of the web," Curtis said. "I couldn't get enough of it to squeeze it. I was hoping."
Curtis, even if he has struggled statistically, has to be pretty talented to be in Double-A in just his first full season of professional baseball.
"He was pretty good when he got here," said Wilson, who also said there was "nothing special" to work on with Curtis because of his talent.
It's just a matter of gaining experience.
"I just want to keep improving," Curtis said. "I'm not really too worried about my numbers, I just want to feel like I'm getting better at each level."
"I'm still young, I got a lot of things I'm still trying to learn. Hopefully, after awhile once I start learning some new things, I can start putting them together and become a pretty good ballplayer."
With some help from some scrapes along the way.
Curtis Not Worried About His Numbers
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