Ex-Curve player helping Aeros

Quincy Latimore was a big part of any success the Curve had the past two years, but while he’s very familiar with Altoona, this week he finds himself in unusual surroundings.

Latimore is in the visitors’ dugout with Akron, having been traded to the Indians organization in January for pitcher Jeanmar Gomez.

“I was surprised, shocked, like, ‘Wow, I was traded,” said Latimore, who got the news while playing winter ball in Australia.

Players in the lower levels of the minors rarely have to deal with being traded, but that becomes a greater possibility in Double-A and above. Latimore found that out, and he’s trying to make the best impression he can with his new organization.

“I was excited about it,” Latimore said of getting traded. “New opportunity, new organization, you get to make a new first impression and all that stuff.”

Latimore had a key RBI double Wednesday night to help the Aeros beat the Curve, 5-4, before 2,178 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The Curve committed three errors in the third inning to help Akron take a 3-1 lead, and the offense had a better night with 10 hits and four runs but couldn’t catch up.

Latimore led the Curve in homers (15) and RBIs (59) in 2011 while hitting .239 with a .708 OPS. He improved in all aspects of his game in 2012 and again led the team in homers (15) while finishing second in RBIs (76) and hitting .252 with a .754 OPS.

Proving he’s consistent, Latimore is at .250 and leads Akron with three homers while tying for third with 12 RBIs. If he’s with the Aeros all season, he’s likely to be right around .250 with 15 homers and 70 RBIs. He had 100 RBIs and 19 homers for high-A Bradenton in 2010.

“Quincy showed a lot of maturation and growth in the couple years [in Altoona],” Pirates farm director Kyle Stark said Wednesday. “I think that was a constant throughout his time with us. I think that Quincy will show you big league potential in the box, and I think he worked really hard to show some big league potential defensively as well. But just the growth is the thing that stands out for me with Quincy.”

Latimore showed much better plate discipline his second year with the Curve, striking out 105 times in 126 games, compared to 140 in 128 games in 2011. His OPS also went up 46 points to .754.

The trade turned out to be a good one for the Pirates as they got a major leaguer in return for Latimore. The Indians gave up on Gomez, who made the Bucs out of spring training and is 1-0 with a 3.06 ERA in six games.

“Quincy’s still young, and we’re still rooting for him and hope he has a good career and achieves some things,” Stark said. “At the time it made a lot of sense for us, and Jeanmar’s pitched well for us.”

Gomez made a spot start for the Pirates on Wednesday and pitched well, but the Aeros had the game on in the clubhouse when he gave up back-to-back home runs against the Brewers.

Latimore said one of his teammates joked then, ‘Ah, Jeanmar did this, they should have kept Quincy.'”

Latimore has an opportunity in a new organization to prove himself, but he’s a free agent after this season, so he’ll have to do that in a hurry. Players sometimes think the grass could be greener in another organization with minor league free agency, but more often than not that free agency simply starts a period of bouncing around from one organization to another the final few years of a career.

“You think about that,” Latimore said. “You definitely want to do something big this year and hopefully make something happen, make them make some moves to keep you. But it’s something you can’t control. I just go out and play the best I can and give it my all, and hopefully it just works out.

“I’m just waiting for the opportunity and still chasing my dreams trying to get to the big leagues.”

Latimore knows many players on the Curve, and even though he’s wearing an opposing uniform, they want their friend to succeed in his career.

“We were real close last year, so seeing him here again, I want what’s best for him, and I want him to get out of [Double-A] as quick as he can,” Curve second baseman Jarek Cunningham said. “I just want him to play well. It’s business on the field, but at the heart I really want what’s best for him.”

Game recap

Key player: Aeros 1B Chun Chen had a big two-run homer in the seventh for a 5-2 lead and scored twice.

Key play: Three Curve errors in the third inning helped Akron score three times for a 3-1 lead.

Key stat: The Curve have the best defense in the Eastern League with only 21 errors, but three came in about five minutes Wednesday.

How they scored

Bottom 2nd: Cunningham solo homer (1-0).

Top 3rd: Lowery doubled, scored on Lambo error (1-1); Ramirez walked, scored on Cutler error (1-2); Chen hit by pitch, scored on Latimore double (1-3).

Bottom 4th: Lambo doubled, scored on Dickerson double (2-3).

Top 7th: Holt singled, scored on Chen two-run homer (2-5).

Bottom 8th: Rojas doubled, scored on Curry single (3-5).

Bottom 9th: Cunningham doubled, scored on Dickerson single (4-5).