Culver Learning On The Fly

Culver is hitting better against right-handers

CHARLESTON, SC- After recently making the change from a switch-hitter to a permanent right-handed hitter, shortstop Cito Culver and his coaches have a lot of confidence that the move will prove to be a wise one down the road even though everyone realizes there will be a short-term adjustment needed to be made.

As a second year player in Charleston, Spring Training for Culver this year was all about adjusting to his transition, continuing to practice a new routine, and maturing in his game.

"It's a little bit of an adjustment," Culve said, "but I think it's much better for me to just stay one-sided and be able to fully concentrate on that side, so I like it a lot better.

"I think I have more confidence on that side of the plate and I don't have to do as much or put in as much work. And, I don't think as much now when I'm at the plate, so it's helped a lot."

As a right-handed hitter, Culver is now faced with the challenge of right-handed batters, and an adjustment he realizes could take some time in the short-term.

"It's an adjustment that I knew was going to have to be made, but I really like it so far and I feel like I'm doing pretty well with it and I'm happy with my decision," Culver stated.

Culver, selected by the New York Yankees in the first round of the 2010 First-Year player draft out of Irondequoit High School in Rochester, New York, feels there is always room for improvement.

"There is never just one thing to improve on, pretty much everything from my approach to the pitches I swing at is what I'm really focusing on," he added.

Culvers' hitting coach, P.J. Pilittere, was very optimistic and supportive of the player and his transition from a switch-hitter to a permanent right-handed hitter, and Spring Training only further proved his trust in him.

"He's making an adjustment, he's kind of learning on the fly about how to recognize what is for right-handers and what's not, and that's something he hasn't done in a long time," Pilittere said.

"But he's working really hard, and he's developed a nice routine that he does every single day, and he's really maturing nicely into a professional hitter."

So far this season, Pilittere sees absolute dedication from the 6-foot, 190- pound shortstop.

"I see a guy that is very dedicated to his craft, he comes to the ballpark ready to work every single day," Pilittere continued. "He's playing hard and is engaged, and he's definitely staying with the process. He doesn't get too down when he doesn't get a hit, and he's being really professional."

Pilittere is confident that Culver will have a great season after an initial learning curve, as well as long-term success.

"I think he's done a pretty good job so far. It's going to be a tough challenge for him because he's just not used to seeing right-handed vs. right-handed stuff for probably, well, ever, in his life so I think he's handled the challenge really well," he said.

"He's battled hard, and he hasn't used it as an excuse at all. I think he has a chance to really succeed moving forward."

Sure of his confidence, Pilittere believes this transition will be a successful long-term move for Culver.

"One of the big reasons why he decided to be solely a right-handed hitter was because of the confidence it brought him," he added. "Hitting is all about confidence, and if you're a confident hitter when you're up there at the plate you're going to give yourself a better chance to succeed.

Culver's confidence is not the only thing that has improved. Hitting coach Pilittere describes the player's swing.

"He works really hard at his swing mechanics on a daily basis, I think he's eliminated a lot of extra movement that he used to have in his swing, and I think he's getting really close to where he wants to be.

"I just want him to keep moving forward and keep realizing that the job is never done, and you have to keep working to improve every day."

Pilittere wants Culver to stay consistent, and to never give anything away at the plate. He wants constant fighting with every single pitch, and wants him to be a pest at the plate - someone who is never going to give in.

"I just want him to be that kind of guy because I know he can be that guy. I see him doing it, and I want him to do it every single day," Pilittere finished.

RiverDogs first-year Manager Al Pedrique added to hitting coach P.J. Pilittere's confident and positive statements regarding the player's future, and Spring Training Camp only further proved his confidence as well.

"I saw a kid that has some tools," Pedrique said. "As a shortstop, there are some things you can't teach and he naturally has that, so I think if he keeps working hard day in and day out, he has a very good chance of making it as a Major League shortstop."

So far this season, Pedrique confirms Culver's improvement and understanding of the game.

"He understands what it takes to get ready every day to be able to compete and be the leader on the clock, and he knows for a fact that he can do it, but now he needs to show he can do it on an every day basis," Pedrique shared.

The manager proceeded to discuss Culver on and off the field.

"I think so far defensively he's playing well; he's making the routine plays, his backhand play is getting a lot better as well as his slow-roller, and he needs to charge and continue being very consistent.

"Offensively he does still have a long way to go, but he's making some adjustments on his swing. He's working with P.J. Pilittere, our hitting coach, and I think his game overall is getting a lot better," Pedrique confirmed.

Pedrique has a few suggestions for Culver's improvement.

"He needs to shorten up his swing a little bit, start hitting the ball the other way with more authority, and use the whole field. He's capable of doing that, he just needs to learn to be more patient at the plate, and once he does I really think he has a chance to be a really great hitter."

Pedrique has been keeping an eye on Culver's improvement, especially since Spring Training and over the course of the first month of the season.

"I see much more confidence now," Pedrique added. "Right now he knows that he can be a better hitter, but again, he needs to go out there and take a plan with him. Whatever he does in batting practice and with hitting coach Pilittere, he needs to take it with him to the game.

"I don't think confidence is an issue at all with Culver because he knows he can play the game. It's just a matter of time for him to collect himself and put everything together, but once every thing clicks I think he can be a complete player."

Manager Al Pedrique showed complete support for the shortstop's learning and progression at the plate despite the fact that Culver has not gotten off to the statistical start he would have liked to have had in his second tour of duty in Charleston.

"The biggest thing for me is for him to stay aggressive; whether there are guys on base or not, I think he's too passive when he knows there can be a score," Pedrique said.

"He also needs to focus more on line drives; I see him wanting home runs, but right now he needs to do the little things like bunt for base hits and just be able to make solid contact, get on base more, improve his base percentage, and I know he will do it."

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