Pirates Notebook: McCutchen reaching 'another level'

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DENVER -- For all that went awry for the Pirates on this 1-5 road trip, the performance of their gifted young center fielder clearly was not among them.

In these six games, Andrew McCutchen:

• Went 10 for 29 out of the leadoff spot, with a home run, three triples, two doubles and six RBIs.

• Extended his current hitting streak to 10 games.

• Made six fine running catches, including an exceptional back-to-the-fence running stab of a laser from the Colorado Rockies' Todd Helton Saturday night.

His totals through 17 games: .333 with the home run, five triples, three doubles, 13 runs scored, 13 RBIs and two steals.

Hey, who said Major League Baseball was supposed to be tough for a 22-year-old?

"I wasn't expecting anything, to be honest, because that puts pressure on your self," McCutchen said after going 2 for 5 yesterday. "I just came here and took it game by game. I don't set goals. Just come out and play hard, pitch by pitch. It's worked for me all year."

He was including his .303 stint with Class AAA Indianapolis, where, by the way, he had eight triples.

"This is a totally different year for me, a positive and great year for me."

McCutchen's instant success would appear to vindicate the Pirates' patient approach with their top prospect, given that general manager Neal Huntington and director of player development Kyle Stark had maintained for months that they would not promote him until he was prepared to excel.

"First of all, I'm not that smart to envision Andrew going up and hitting .333 with nine extra-base hits in 78 at-bats," Stark said last night. "However, the idea of making sure a player is ready to compete rather than survive is part of our approach to promoting players. We felt Andrew made huge strides in Instructional League last fall and wanted him to display those adjustments in games that mattered while proving to himself -- and us -- that they were solidified."

But this?

"He's taken it to another level, which is a tribute to the player and person he is."

LaRoche trade not close

Huntington said that first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce's promotion should not be taken as a sign that first baseman Adam LaRoche is about to be traded.

"If we were close on something with Adam, we'd leave Pearce in the minors to play every day and develop to prepare for Adam being gone, but that's not the case," Huntington said.

Pearce took the place of outfielder Craig Monroe, cut loose Friday in part because of a lack of hustle.

Huntington expanded on the Monroe matter yesterday.

"We've talked repeatedly about how we want to play the game," he said. "I don't like criticizing any player in public, but there are certain expectations, certain things that are not negotiable. No single episode leads to any move, unless it's outrageous, but it's a part of the equation."

Buried treasure

• Catcher Robinzon Diaz turned a highly unusual double play in the fifth inning, with two caught stealings off the same pitch: First, he tagged Troy Tulowitzki, hung up between third and home, then fired to second to get Garrett Atkins trying to sneak an extra base.

• Brad Lincoln, the Pirates' top pitching prospect freshly promoted to Indianapolis, will make his debut Wednesday at Lehigh Valley.

• The Pirates have been impressed with Indianapolis outfielder Garrett Jones, batting .293 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs, to the point he probably is next in line for a promotion if there is an opening.

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Catch more on the Pirates at the PG's PBC Blog .


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