Curve tie Squirrels in ninth
Charlie Cutler is a perfect teammate for the minor leagues, a player who has the right attitude about his role and who understands better than most how valuable it is to still get paid to play a game.
“It’s a joy to come to the ballpark,” Cutler said. “I’m grateful to be on this team, I’m grateful for every opportunity I get. It’s what I love to do.”
Cutler could be bitter. He’s probably as good of a pure hitter as there is on the team he has a .305 career average but he’s basically been a career backup. Even on a Curve club that has struggled mightily scoring runs this week, Cutler has had a tough time getting at-bats.
He got one at-bat Tuesday night against Richmond, and he made the most of it.
Cutler didn’t snap the Curve’s four-game losing streak, but he prevented it from reaching five temporarily, at least. His two-out RBI double in the bottom of the ninth tied the game at 1-1, and play was suspended because of rain before the start of the 10th inning at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The two teams will resume the game today at 10:30 a.m., then play their regularly scheduled nine-inning contest.
The Curve had scored only three runs in their last 46 innings entering the ninth. Andy Vasquez singled with one out, and on a 2-2 pitch, Cutler roped a double to right that brought in the tying run.
“It boosted the team’s confidence that we can be able to have somebody to drive in the run the way he did there,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said.
Cutler is the backup catcher to Carlos Paulino, a good young defensive player who is still learning how to be a consistent offensive threat. Paulino is hitting .161 this season and has a .249 career average.
There’s no doubt Cutler can hit, but he’s not the strongest defensive catcher, which has prevented him from becoming an everyday player in the minors.
Cutler came to the conclusion long ago that he’s not going to worry about anything other than what he can control, and that allows him to maintain a positive attitude.
“I just know having a bad attitude, you’re not going to do well,” Cutler said. “Being bitter, you’re not going to do well. And I want to enjoy my life, so that’s really what it comes down to.”
Cutler hit .296 last year for the Curve serving as a backup to Tony Sanchez and Ramon Cabrera. There are always priority players in the minor leagues, and this year Paulino is one, which means he has to be in the lineup most days.
Garcia said he will find ways to get Cutler at-bats as the season goes along, and that’s easier to do against American League affiliates when the designated hitter is in play.
“Definitely I want to give him more opportunities to play,” Garcia said, “but right now it’s hard, especially when you only have two catchers. If he doesn’t play another position, it’s going to be difficult.”
Cutler’s hit saved the Curve on a night when they made two big mistakes on the basepaths. Those kind of mistakes are always glaring on a team that’s struggling to score, and they were especially so in what had been a 1-0 game until the ninth.
Mel Rojas Jr. was picked off third in the first inning. Altoona had runners at the corners, and Richmond starter Taylor Rogers stepped off the mound quickly and caught Rojas by surprise with a quick throw.
In the seventh, Vasquez singled and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Gift Ngoepe. Vasquez then surprisingly tried to steal third and was thrown out.
Garcia said he wants his young players to be aggressive but also noted he told Vasquez that wasn’t a good spot to run in because he’s fast enough to score from second base on a single.
“This is the type of situation that they have to learn from,” Garcia said. “Now you have a teaching point.
“Things happen to be a little difficult for young kids because the team is struggling to score runs, and they try to do more than what they’re capable of doing in a lot of situations.”
Garcia likes the energy his young players are showing, but there’s no denying the mistakes have been piling up day after day in the early going.
“They will make mistakes,” Garcia said. “I’m more concerned about the mental mistake than the physical, but I’ve just got to let them fail, and then we approach how to do things the right way.”
The offense struggled again Tuesday, but the Curve pitching turned in another superb performance. Starter Casey Sadler allowed one run on five hits in seven innings, then Jason Townsend pitched two scoreless innings of relief to keep it 1-0.
“This staff is more aggressive than a lot of staffs that I’ve been a part of,” Sadler said. “We’re not afraid to give contact up, we have total faith in our defense. Honestly, we pitch to give our team a chance to win believing in ourselves and then just going out and having fun, pitching, letting guys get themselves out and not try to do too much.”