The errors are down and the average is back up, but the season has still been a struggle for Jim Negrych.
The second baseman has reached base in eight straight games. He has recorded five multi-hit performances in his last 10 outings and now leads the Curve with 22 multi-hit games.
In doing so, Negrych has put a rough June behind him after two strong months to open the season.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Curve second baseman Jim Negrych has raised his batting average recently.
The Curve, however, stood at 30-55 entering Wednesday's game against Erie despite his team-high .272 batting average.
"Obviously your plan is to win here, but the goal in the end is to be in Pittsburgh and make Pittsburgh a winning team, not so much make Altoona right now a great team," Negrych said. "Obviously that was our goal at the start of the season, but the cards haven't played out that way."
The Pirates' 2008 minor league player of the year looked to be picking up right where he left off last year, as he carried a batting average consistently around the .300 mark toward the end of May.
Yet by July, Negrych was hitting just .259 and his team had the league's worst record.
"It was a little frustrating, but you just try to stay positive and realize that I'm not up there striking out," Negych said. "I'm putting the ball in play. You can't move the defenders around for you - if you hit it hard, you hit it hard. If it's at somebody, it's at somebody. If it's not, you know it's going to drop."
Negrych has stressed the importance of four good at-bats every game. He has struck out just 29 times this season, an improvement off last year's pace, when he struck out a combined 69 times with the Curve and Single-A Lynchburg.
Put the ball in play, he said, and good things will happen.
"You just hope that more balls drop than they don't," Negrych said.
While in the field, Negrych has been making sure not as many balls drop for the opposition.
He has steadily improved at second a year after playing third. His .964 fielding percentage and 12 errors are best among Curve regular infielders, with the exception of catcher Steve Lerud.
"If you can't get any hits you want to try to take them away from other guys," Negrych said. "Obviously I started slow defensively, but we developed a routine here defensively and I put a lot of hard work in, and I kept telling people [that] eventually it's going to pay off."
Negrych can only hope the same rings true for the Curve this season.
As one of five players in the team's Wednesday night lineup that was in Altoona last year, he has tried to weather the storm that only a handful of the Curve players have dealt with since the beginning of the season.
Still, he can't help but feel that games like Tuesday's historically low 19-2 loss are the aberrations.
"You have games like [Tuesday's]," Negrych said. "The games that are tough to swallow are the games that you lose that are close, that you feel like you should have won, and we've had a lot of those this year.
"Obviously we have a very talented team on an individual standpoint, and [if] you go around our diamond, we have some of the best players in our organization, if not the best in the organization at each individual spot. It's just you've got to come together as a team."