Suiter reflects on Curve history

Next stop

Today: Akron at Altoona, DH at 3 p.m.

Notable: Friday’s game was rained out, leading to the DH today. The Curve will be called the Allegheny Yinzers and wear special jerseys for the second game, in the first installment of their season-long promotion.

Jerrick Suiter was one of the best players on the 2017 Curve team and a key reason why the club won the Eastern League championship that season.

The first baseman, who’s back with the team this year, has fond memories of that league title, which came about thanks to a perfect 6-0 record in the playoffs.

“It was awesome,” Suiter said. “We had kind of a core group of guys that we had won with the year before (at high-A Bradenton). It was a very, very close team. It’s just something that some teams have, that camaraderie.

“We had a couple vocal leaders, a couple leaders that weren’t as vocal but showed it on the field. There was just something about that team, it was just different.”

The Curve rode phenomenal pitching and clutch hitting in the playoffs to capture the franchise’s second EL crown in 2017.

“It was unbelievable, and that’s what the game of baseball is, getting hot at the right time,” Suiter said of the perfect playoff record. “We played really well in Bowie (first round of playoffs), our pitching was unbelievable all six of those games, and we had some guys step up to the plate and get some big hits. It was a lot of fun.”

Most of the key players on that 2017 team were promoted to Triple-A last season, including Suiter. But after hitting .285 with 10 homers, 58 RBIs and an .819 OPS in 100 games for Altoona, Suiter had a tough go of it at Indianapolis, hitting just .204 with two homers, 27 RBIs and a .597 OPS in 67 games.

The Pirates haven’t made a habit of sending full-time guys back down to the Curve a year after they’ve gone to Triple-A, in large part because the Double-A roster has been so stacked with prospects for several years.

But things are different this season. The Curve roster isn’t stacked with a bevy of elite prospects because most of them are in Triple-A now, including slugging first baseman Will Craig.

So, Suiter finds himself in the position of coming back down to Double-A to be an everyday player once again, as well as a leader on a team that features a good number of newcomers at this level.

“It’s part of the game,” Suiter said. “I didn’t have a spot in Indy. I played well this spring, and they wanted to give me an opportunity to play every day, get my at-bats in.”

Instead of being bitter about having to drop back down a level, the 26-year-old Suiter sees the positives in the whole situation.

“I was happy to come back,” he said. “The town of Altoona has treated me very, very well. We’ve got a great fan base here. I’m playing with a lot of younger guys on this team that I’ve gotten to know really well in spring training and instructs, and I’m happy to be here.”

A big part of that happiness is a chance to play every day.

“That helps,” Suiter said.

He only got 219 plate appearances last season at Indy, so he had to learn how to adjust to being on the bench for the first time in his life.

“I got a taste of that last year, and it wasn’t fun, it was something new to me,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever sat for an entire game in any sport that I’ve ever played.

“But that’s something I’ve got to learn how to do. There’s guys in the big leagues that come off the bench, whether it’s a pinch hit or a double switch. That’s something I struggled with last year and something I’m going to have to build on the rest of my career.”

The bottom line for Suiter is that he will get to play every day, and if he produces this season, he will continue to give himself opportunities in baseball.

From the Curve’s perspective, Suiter figures to be one of the best hitters on the team this year, and as a middle-of-the-order bat, he will have ample opportunities to produce.

“Honestly, I wasn’t too worried about it,” Suiter said of coming back to Double-A. “I know I’ve got a limited time in this game, just like everybody else does, and I’m just trying to enjoy myself.”

Being in Altoona and playing in a great ballpark helps in those regards.

“Our fan base is as good as there is in the Eastern League, if not all of minor league baseball,” Suiter said. “So it’s a great feeling coming back here where people know you, people love the team, they support us. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”