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Altoona Curve

Pirates’ GM Cherington discusses Curve, minor league expectations

Photo by Pittsburgh Pirates: Bob Nutting and Ben Cherington

There have been a lot of major changes both in minor league baseball overall and within the Pirates’ system, so it’s natural to wonder how all of those changes will impact the Curve going forward.

Pirates general manager Ben Cherington has been in town for a couple of days this week checking out the Curve during their opening series. He addressed several topics about the club and the minor leagues with the Mirror.

On Peoples Natural Gas Field:

Cherington: “It’s a good facility. Players seem really comfortable and getting good work in. More than anything, it’s just fun to be around our players who just seem so happy and grateful to be back on the field playing games.”

On putting together rosters in the minors now that there are no short-season or rookie leagues:

Cherington: “We see differences in maybe the makeup of the rosters in Low-A, at least ours and others probably a little bit younger. I haven’t looked closely enough at Double-A to see if there’s much of a difference. … We made decisions based on where we felt players would be the most challenged.”

On what will determine when players are ready to move up:

Cherington: “It’s player by player. You’re looking for things in their performance. It’s not always batting average or ERA. In fact, it’s usually not. There’s other performances things we’re looking for. What’s their practice like? Are they getting a lot out of practice? Are they improving in their primary area? Also, what kind of teammate are they?”

On whether the Curve having more older players this year will be a sign of things to come:

Cherington: “I wouldn’t bank on any specific combination of age group here going forward. We’re always going to try to play players where we feel like they’re challenged and where the opportunity is. Obviously, with the year missed last year, that’s a full year, so they’re maybe a year older chronologically, but they may not be a year older baseball-wise because of a lot of games missed.”

On goals for this year’s Curve team:

Cherington: “Just effort and getting better every day. Especially coming off all the time missed, I think what we really want to see is let’s get the most we possibly can out of our practice every day. Let’s be prepared going into games with confidence and compete. Just getting back into that consistent daily baseball grind and getting better. … There was a lot of training that could happen last year outside of games. Now we’ve got to get back into the routine of everyday baseball.”

On 2018 first-round pick Travis Swaggerty skipping Double-A, something that had never happened before with a prized prospect during the Curve era.

Cherington: “That’s a good example of where it really is case by case. In his specific case it was something we talked about a lot. We considered a variety of inputs on that one. We felt like the combination of what he had done last year and what he got out of the (alternate) site and major league spring training and this year’s alt site, (with) the improvement he was making … we felt like Travis was ready for that challenge in Triple-A.”

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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