By: Rob Egan
While the biggest news regarding the 2014 Altoona Curve roster may be about who will be playing first base, there are several other items that are intriguing.
While former second-round pick Stetson Allie getting pushed to Double-A to be the Curve’s regular first baseman surprised many, the new assignments for familiar faces will catch some attention, too. Allie, who is likely to begin the season on the disabled list while recovering from an oblique strain, will push last year’s first baseman Justin Howard to left field when the former returns to game action in mid-April. Pirates’ director of player development Larry Broadway says Allie has already started swinging the bat and will just need some reps in extended spring training before coming north.
Howard, who won the Curve’s unsung hero award for how well he played and hit last season, will still get everyday at bats, but most of them will be from his new outfield home. Meanwhile, Jarek Cunningham, the second baseman each of the last two seasons will return to Altoona as the team’s primary third baseman. Taking Cunningham’s spot at second will be former Curve shortstop Gift Ngoepe.
Teaming with Ngoepe, in what promises to be a fun double play tandem to watch, will be Alen Hanson. A member of the Pirates’ 40-man roster, Hanson will look to follow up on his late – season audition last year with an even better 2014. Backing up on the infield will be returnee Drew Maggi and, when he recovers from a foot injury, newcomer Dan Gamache. Gamache will be a “priority utility man” according to Broadway getting at bats regularly while playing second, third, and left.
The outfield will be centered once again by Mel Rojas, Jr. A solid fielder, Rojas impressed with his hot bat over the last two months of the 2013 season. Willy Garcia, who displayed good power in Bradenton last year, will be the regular right fielder for the Curve.
For a full rundown on the 2014 Curve roster, check out Cory Giger’s article in Sunday’s Altoona Mirror. He’ll have more detail on the above players plus a look at the pitchers and catchers slated to begin the season at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
That’s all for today’s entry from Florida’s west coast. Back with one more edition on Saturday.