At some point the Yankees are going to retire the No. 2, but until then, Cito Culver will continue wearing it.
“There’s no coincidence,” Culver said. “I’ve watched (Derek Jeter) play since I was a little kid and he’s always been the guy that I looked up to. He’s a pretty good mentor of mine, and we talk and there’s nothing but good things from him. He’s an awesome.”
Kind of bold for a young Yankees shortstop to wear the number of the franchise’s most iconic shortstop, but Culver says it out of respect and tribute; it’s not some sort of expectation. Culver’s well aware that he has a long way to go before he’s considered an heir to the position. The Yankees made him a first-round draft pick in 2010, but he’s barely played above Low-A. His defense draws rave reviews, but he’s hit just .238/.322/.327 in his career.
“Every year is important for me,” he said. “My final goal is to get to the big leagues, so every year that I play in this organization is a big year for me. I’m just really excited to get going. This is the most comfortable I’ve felt in spring training ever.”
Part of that comfort comes from last year’s decision to drop switch hitting and bat exclusively from the right side. Culver had been a switch hitter since high school, and the vast majority of his at-bats had come as a lefty. But right-handed is his natural side, so that’s the side he chose. He hit just .214 in the first half of last season, but he hit .253 in the second half before a jump from Low-A to High-A, where he hit .355 in a brief 62-at-bat sample.
“It’s a lot more comfortable,” Culver said. “I knew making the decision to not switch hit any more, there would be an adjustment period when I’d have to make some adjustments and sometimes I might look stupid, but it’s something that I needed to do. I feel a lot more comfortable now than I did in the past. … The big adjustment took me about half the year last year to feel comfortable seeing a breaking ball from the other side. The second half, I did a lot better with it. But still a long way to go, obviously.”
When it comes to Culver, there seems to be some cautious optimism in Yankees camp. The at-bats are said to be getting better, there are few who doubt his glove, and it’s worth remembering that he was drafted at 17. Culver is going to spend most of this season as a 21-year-old, three months younger than last year’s first-round pick Eric Jagielo.
“I think he’s really improved over the last year,” Mark Newman said. “He can really play defense, and he’s getting better at the plate. I think he showed that at times last year. He’s playing well. … He hits the ball with more impact.”
Happened to shoot some video of Culver taking batting practice when he was up in big league camp earlier this month, so that’s what’s up at the top of the post