Curve spotlight: Jarek Cunningham
Hot corner: Cunningham spent the past two years as the Curve’s everyday second baseman but has now moved to third. Gift Ngoepe, the shortstop early last year, is now at second, while promising prospect Alen Hanson is at shortstop.
Getting used to the position: Cunningham played 26 games at third his rookie year and four games last season for the Curve when Neil Walker was rehabbing in Double-A. “I don’t mind it,” he said of third base. “It’s a little different, not as much range as you need to have at second. I’m still trying to figure it out, but I’m getting the hang of it pretty well.”
Quick reaction: A third baseman has very little reaction time when balls are rocketed his way, which is much different from second base where there generally are a lot of easier plays. Cunningham made a sweet defensive play Sunday when he leaped and snared a line drive, then fired over to first base to catch a runner off the bag for a double play. “There’s not too much time to think,” he said. “You kind of just see the ball and react to it, and I kind of like that.”
Third time around: Cunningham hit 19 homers for the Curve last year, but once again he struggled with consistency and batted only .216. He hit .217 his first season at Double-A in 2012. He has to cut down on his strikeouts after fanning 127 times last year and 111 in 2011. “The big thing is just staying in the big part of the field and staying in right field,” he said. “There’s a lot more offspeed, a lot of guys throwing away and I’m just not trying to pull everything. That’s what my big focus has been this spring.”
– Cory Giger