Pirates fans can at least be optimistic about the performance of Andrew McCutchen.

In the midst of all this, was benched for the entire Braves series. The Pirates called it a mental timeout of sorts.

Manager Clint Hurdle announced the decision on Sunday. The Pirates had removed McCutchen from center this offseason, shifting him to right field in favor of Marte. McCutchen then returned to center when Marte was suspended. Marte is eligible to return on July 18.

It might even come as a shock to McCutchen himself, considering how much time he spent on Google and Twitter over the winter, monitoring trade rumblings to figure out which coast of Florida he’d need to fly to for spring training.

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When the Pirates abruptly informed him last month that he was going to shift over to right field this season, “it wasn’t an ask,” McCutchen said Friday morning, on the first day of what could be his last spring training as a Pirate. “It was more of a ‘say.’ It was ‘I have to move there.'”

In hindsight, the turning point came in late May, when manager Clint Hurdle sat McCutchen on the bench for two days and mlb jerseys free shipping and dropped him to sixth in the batting order from his customary third spot. Then Hurdle just sat back and watched an artist at work.

McCutchen knows he could still be traded in midseason if the Pirates aren’t in contention, but he said he refused to speculate on if he will get to fulfill his dream of spending his whole career as a Pirate. If the Pirates are able to trade McCutchen, their plan is to move Starling Marte from left field to center field, according to multiple reports.

Pirates #22 Andrew McCutchen Gold Alternate Women's Stitched MLB Jersey
Pirates #22 Andrew McCutchen Gold Alternate Women’s Stitched MLB Jersey

The bond Hurdle and McCutchen have carved out over their six years together needs to be strong enough now to heal any lingering hurt and get McCutchen back to stardom. And Hurdle sounds confident that’s exactly where this is leading.

McCutchen, 30, is signed through 2017, when he is owed $14 million, and the Pirates hold a $14.5 million club option for 2018.

The Pirates have a $14.75 million team option for McCutchen next season. General manager Neal Huntington said the club will wait until after the World Series to make any sort of decision on McCutchen’s future with the only team he has known.

“McCutchen, the former MVP who sparked the Pirates’ renaissance, is more of an institution in Pittsburgh than Melancon was,” Rosenthal writes. “But the Pirates discussed McCutchen in trades last offseason; the shock value of dangling him is gone.”

McCutchen said he wasn’t upset that the Pirates’ front office never warned him before rumors erupted in December about a potential trade to the Washington Nationals. Asked if he found that disconcerting, he replied, “It’s not, because no one [in any front office] talks to their players around that time. That’s not their job. Their job is to try and build a team.”

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Andrew McCutchen will remain the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting center fielder when Starling Marte returns from his 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension later this month. Though McCutchen has been given “no assurances,” he has spoken to Huntington since the league’s winter meetings ended Thursday.

You see the pattern, right? As McCutchen grew into an MVP winner, he saw fewer pitches in the strike zone. That makes sense. Pitchers preferred to let somebody else on the Pirates beat them. That’s one reason McCutchen drew a lot of walks, aside from his good eye at the plate. That rate of strikes increased last year, however, and has jumped way up so far this year. Again, it’s too early to draw any surefire conclusion here, as maybe the Pirates have faced a collection of strike-throwers so far, but it seems like an indication that scouting reports are simply telling pitchers to challenge McCutchen.

Even if the Pirates truly believe, as manager Clint Hurdle said Friday, that McCutchen is still “The Man” on this team, his team still plays in Pittsburgh. Which is not to be confused with, oh, the Hollywood Hills.

Allow us to translate that last part for you: If Andrew McCutchen bounces back and plays like a star for the next two seasons, he’s going to want to step into the free-agent batter’s box and get paid. And if you’re wandering the free-agent wilderness in search of millions and gazillions of dollars, you might notice that all roads do not lead to Pittsburgh.


Nolan Arenado has won three Gold Glove awards in three years.<< >>Greinke went 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA and made his second All-Star team last year.

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