Rays' Ciuffo breaks out of slump in AFL action

Rays' Ciuffo breaks out of slump in AFL action

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Nick Ciuffo has struggled at the plate in the early going of the Arizona Fall League.

But not Wednesday.

Ciuffo, the Rays' No. 25 prospect, drove in a run with a double in the second inning that sent Brandon Dixon home for the first run in Peoria's 2-1 victory over Mesa.

Ciuffo, who came into the game hitting .158, was 1-for-3 -- and relieved.

"At the plate it's tough, because everyone is so good. Everything moves. Everybody throws hard," he said. "But that's going to come and go. But it's good because I had been working on some stuff lately, with the leg kick and all that -- and to really square one up. I feel like I took a good path. It was nice to start the day off."

Gameday

Ciuffo said he hit a sinker "that was supposed to stay in but it kind of ran out over the plate, so I just put a good swing on it. (I was) fortunate to find a hole."

He has been working on his swinging motion to improve his power, something Ciuffo believes he is capable of at the professional level.

"I haven't really hit for power like I, myself, expected to when I got into pro ball. I think that has to do with timing and with the leg kick it's going to," Ciuffo said. "The plan is for that to help my timing and get the barrell out in front and drive balls more. When it's been on time, I've driven the ball real well. I'm excited about it."

While he was relieved with driving in a run, Ciuffo was critical of his performance in five games so far.

"Absolutely terrible,'' he called his start. "When I got out here and I was struggling a little bit defensively I was like, 'this isn't me,' because that's been my thing since day one of pro ball," he said.

"Up until [Wednesday] I really hadn't felt real comfortable behind the plate. But [Wednesday] was really good. I didn't have any drops, I didn't have any passed balls or anything. Everything was nice and clean. For me, defense is my thing."

After his solid day at the plate, Ciuffo hopes his struggles are in the rear view.

"Maybe it's because of the time off or whatever it was, maybe it's just because guys have stuff that moves," Ciuffo said. "The first few games playing here were kind of rough and to have a good clean game (Wednesday) was good."

Jonathan Saxon is a graduate journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is a part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.