Curry, Dickerson excited for exhibition, new roles
Matt Curry was mad initially, and no one could blame him.
Curry didn’t think he’d be with the Curve for today’s exhibition game against the Pirates. He’s looking forward to the unique event and seeing 10,000 fans pack Peoples Natural Gas Field, but the reality is Curry did well enough with the Curve last season to warrant a promotion to Triple-A this year.
The 24-year-old first baseman went through most of spring training believing he would be with the Indianapolis club, only to find out from Pirates officials earlier this week he would have to return to Altoona because of a logjam of players in Triple-A.
“I was kind of mad at first, I’m not going to lie,” Curry said Friday shortly after arriving in town from Florida. “You always have your sights set on somewhere where you finished last year, and I was hoping I was going to start [in Indianapolis].
Instead, Curry is back with the Curve, and the team is fortunate to have him. Altoona’s offense didn’t look particularly strong a few days ago based on early roster projections, but having Curry back along with outfielder Adalberto Santos, who hit .340 last year, it boosts the Curve’s everyday lineup.
That lineup will be in action this afternoon against the Pirates, although fans will need a scorecard to keep up with all the changes as players for both teams are expected to be shuffled around. (Remember, the last time the Bucs visited Altoona for an exhibition in May of 2000, then-Pirates coach and future Curve manager Dale Sveum actually played in the game.)
As of a few days ago, Curry figured he would be playing in Indianapolis. And Alex Dickerson, the Florida State League Player of the Year last season, believed he would be the Curve’s everyday first baseman.
Both players now have to adapt to changing roles – splitting time at first base and playing a lot of games in the outfield – and both understand the benefits of that.
“I like the outfield,” said Curry, who led the Curve with 76 RBIs while hitting .285 with 11 homers last year. “I can run a little bit better than most people think for an outfielder.”
Curry played some right field in junior college and said, “It’s actually a little bit more relaxing for me out there. You don’t have as much going on as you do at first base. … I’m comfortable out there. It’s not like you’re just throwing a first baseman out there for the first time.”
That won’t be the case with Dickerson, either.
“I did play there pretty much all my career going into pro ball,” the 22-year-old Double-A newcomer said.
Dickerson had 90 RBIs and hit .295 with 13 homers at Bradenton last season, enjoying a big year after skipping low-A ball. Curry skipped high-A to join the Curve in 2011, so both players know what it’s like to have to adjust to a much higher level of play.
Both also said where they play on the field doesn’t matter.
“If you’re getting the ABs, that’s all that really matters,” Dickerson said.
Curry is back in Double-A because the Pirates have several players who can play first base at Indianapolis. It benefits both him and Dickerson to be able to show they can handle the outfield in pro ball.
“It’s just going to add more dynamics to my game,” Dickerson said. “I get to show what I can do in the outfield and at first base this year. I think it’s going to make it a little more exciting actually.”
On a given day, either Curry or Dickerson will be at first base and the other likely will be in the outfield. When the Curve play American League teams, one of the two could get a lot of at-bats as the DH.
Dickerson will try to prove himself at the more advanced level, something Curry already has done. But Curry now has to keep proving it if he wants to get up to Triple-A at some point this season.
“I really can’t control where they put me,” Curry said. “All I can do is just go out and be Matt Curry, be the guy that drives in runs, hits doubles, hits home runs and be that kind of guy that produces in the middle of the order and see what happens from here.
“I know I can hit here,” he added. “I’ve just got to kind of show [the Pirates], kind of push their hand a little bit and make them jump me up.”
Curry and Dickerson figure to be two of the Curve’s best offensive players this season, and they’re excited about getting the opportunity to start things off with today’s exhibition against the Pirates.
Many minor leaguers spend a lot of time around big league players in spring training, so it’s not a foreign concept to them to be playing against those caliber of players. The setting, though, will be quite different today.
“It will be cool to get to see those guys on the field with us, kind of in our environment,” Curry said. “You kind of see them on TV all the time, now they’re going to be right there on your home field with you.”
And that’s pretty cool for everyone, even if it is just an exhibition.
“That’s going to be a great time to play, it’s going to be a great atmosphere,” Dickerson said. “It’s definitely going to get you jumpstarted for the season. It becomes real the first time you step on the field and you’ve got fans cheering and everything. It’s going to be real exciting.”