Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's the adjustment to new pitching. Whatever the case, Alex Dickerson has proven to be a slow starter in the Pittsburgh Pirates system.
"Last year was a train wreck to start," said Dickerson, who hit .235 for most of April and had only two homers during the first two months of the 2012 campaign for Class A Advanced Bradenton.
But he bounced back to finish at .295 with 13 homers and 90 RBIs, earning a promotion to Altoona to start this season. Lo and behold, he hit just .185 in April before batting .264 in May for the Curve.
A third-round pick in 2011 out of Indiana University, Dickerson went 3-for-4 with two homers and seven RBIs on June 2 at Portland and added another multi-hit game Sunday.
"There are more advanced scouting reports [at Double-A], so you know what you're going to get every night," Dickerson said. "This is the [time] to get acclimated, make all the important adjustments and see how they are going to pitch me."
The 23-year-old California native was part of a Poway High School program that produced a slew of Division I products. One of his assistant prep coaches was former Major Leaguer Tom Brunansky, an All-Star outfielder who hit 271 career homers and is now the hitting coach for the Minnesota Twins.
So how did he end up in cold-weather Indiana?
"I was not highly recruited," said Dickerson, who had back surgery and did not play as a sophomore in high school.
But he has no complaints about how things worked out, even though he did not join his high school teammates at major colleges in California.
"The campus [at IU] just screamed college [environment] to me. I loved the atmosphere. I went out there and I don't regret it at all," he said of playing for the Hoosiers. "They gave me the chance to play every day."
Dickerson won the Big Ten Triple Crown in 2010 and was named a First-Team All-American. He began his pro career in the New York-Penn League with State College and hit .313 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 150 at-bats.
Though he played first base last season, Dickerson has been used exclusively in right field by Altoona.
"He does a pretty good job out there," said Larry Broadway, Pittsburgh's director of Minor League operations. "We can always move him back to first."
"I'm comfortable in both spots," Dickerson said. "I've played [in the outfield] my whole life until pro ball. I hadn't played first base until I was drafted. I'm trying to show my versatility."
At the plate he has had some strange splits. The lefty swinger is batting .294 against southpaws and .197 against right-handers. He's hitting .198 with the bases empty and .277 with runners in scoring position, and .255 on the road and .188 at home.
"This is only his second full season," Broadway added. "He's facing some older pitchers. He has to learn some things" at the plate.
Free and easy: Portland's Drake Britton did not allow a hit until the seventh inning in a 6-0 win at Erie on Wednesday, improving his record to 4-5 while lowering his ERA to 4.50 with his season-high eight-inning effort. "It was weird," Britton told The Portland Press-Herald. "I was more relaxed and joking around in the dugout. Usually I like to concentrate, but I was just free and relaxed. It was an awesome place to be."
Well-adjusted: Cuban defector Henry Urrutia, a 26-year-old outfielder making his Minor League debut with Bowie, appears to have a chance to be in Baltimore by September. He had four hits in four at-bats, including two homers, on June 4 at Harrisburg and hit .439 over a 10-game span through Sunday. He batted .348 in May and was hitting .350 after collecting three hits Sunday in a wild, 11-10 loss to New Britain.
Moving on up: Altoona manager Carlos Garcia told his team after Friday's 3-2 loss to visiting Binghamton that Andrew Lambo was being promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis. "I guess that's his style," Lambo told The Altoona Mirror about how Garcia broke the news. "I guess he likes to give clubhouse promotions. [He] doesn't really like to call you in the office. I've never seen that before." The 24-year-old outfielder was hitting .291 with a league-high 14 homers and had reached base in 28 straight games.