Curry works to get noticed again

Anybody who goes to the doctor with a problem wants some kind of answer for what’s wrong, and it gets frustrating hearing over and over again that the doctor can’t figure it out.

When an athlete’s career depends on the doctor figuring it out, frustration inevitably mounts.

Curve first baseman Matt Curry spent most of the past year dealing with that as he tried to come back from a wrist injury. He figured he would miss about two months after surgery on a broken right hamate bone, but instead it turned out he missed more than a year because of other problems that arose.

“It was definitely frustrating,” Curry said. “I just wanted to know what it was and get it fixed.”

Curry’s right wrist finally did get fixed, allowing him to rejoin the Curve on May 8, one year to the day of his hamate surgery. He hadn’t played for Altoona since May 4, 2013.

“When I first started coming back [last year], they said I could start swinging within six to eight weeks of my hamate surgery,” Curry said. “I started swinging, and I kept having complications in my wrist. I had pain in my wrist the day I had surgery, too, so they gave me an injection then in Pittsburgh.

“I got that fixed, got the injection, started swinging again, my wrist started hurting. The hamate was fine, but the wrist was still bothering me. Got another injection, that one didn’t work either, so I missed more time.”

Doctors believed Curry had torn a tendon in his right wrist. He went to spring training this year and felt more pain, so he had another MRI in Pittsburgh, and it showed a slight tendon tear.

“[The Pirates] wanted to send me to Cleveland to see one of the best hand specialists in the country there,” Curry said. “They sent him my MRI, he said, ‘Bring him up here, I want to look at it in person, kind of see what he’s feeling.'”

The hand specialist finally was able to find the exact spot where an injection would solve Curry’s issue.

“He used numbing shots to figure out where the pain was, and when the pain was gone after the numbing shot, he shot the injection right on it,” Curry said. “He said I could swing in five days, and I swung in five days and haven’t felt it since.”

With the wrist injury behind him, Curry finally was able to get back to playing baseball.

Now comes another tough part: Working his way back into prospect status with the Pirates.

He’s always been what’s referred to in the minors as a “priority guy,” so much so that the Bucs let him skip high-A ball to join the Curve in 2011. Only a select handful of players have done that, including Andrew McCutchen and J.R. House.

Curry had a solid season with the Curve in 2012, hitting .285 with 11 homers, 76 RBIs and an .832 OPS. He didn’t expect to be back in Double-A to start 2013, but there was no room for him on the Triple-A roster, so he was sent back to Altoona and then suffered the wrist injury.

Now that he’s back in Double-A for a fourth season, the 25-year-old Curry finds himself in a different role. He’s still a priority guy to a degree, but the Pirates paid slugger Stetson Allie more than $2 million when they drafted him, and that coupled with Allie’s immense power guarantees him most of the at-bats at first base.

“He’s going to play,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said of Curry. “He’s going to play outfield, some DH, some first base.”

Curry will still get his at-bats, as long as he does what he does best.

“They know I can hit, so they still have some faith in me,” said Curry, who has a .282 career average and .833 OPS.

His first game back, in fact, Curry was slotted in as the cleanup hitter, a testament to his reputation as a productive hitter. But cracking the lineup night in and night out still could be difficult, especially against National League teams when there’s no DH.

He also has been suffering back spasms the past few days, keeping him out of the lineup.

“He has something to show,” Garcia said. “Definitely we feel like he has something he can work with. We’ll see what happens. It’s going to be up to him.”

The best thing working in Curry’s favor is he bats left-handed and has some pop. If he can take the next step in his power development up to 15-20 homers per year, the Pirates will have no choice but to continue to view him as a priority guy.

Curry understands how the minors work and how a player who misses a year at this stage in his career potentially could fall out of favor. But he also knows what he must do to prevent that.

“My window’s starting to slowly close,” he said. “I know I can hit, I’ve just got to be healthy and get out there and do it like I used to do. It’s good to be back, and now I’ve just got to prove what I’ve done in the past, that I can still do it.”