Pirates Notebook: McCutchen coming up, after all

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MILWAUKEE -- The Pirates changed their minds about Daniel McCutchen.

They were going to send their top-performing minor league pitcher to Europe to represent the United States in the International Baseball Federation's World Cup all through September.

Now, they are bringing him to Pittsburgh.

Well, Cincinnati, actually.

McCutchen, a 26-year-old right-hander who led Class AAA Indianapolis' rotation, will make his Major League Baseball debut this afternoon in Game 1 of the day-night doubleheader with the Reds at Great American Ball Park.

"I'm so excited," McCutchen said by phone yesterday. "Really, it hasn't even sunk in yet. It just feels good that, after all the hard work, this chance is here."

McCutchen was eminently deserving: His 13-6 record was best in the organization -- Pittsburgh included -- and he had a 3.47 ERA, 110 strikeouts and 29 walks in 24 starts. In his final 10 starts, he was 7-1 with a 2.29 ERA.

Why did the Pirates change their minds?

Primarily, it was out of need: Once management saw that Jose Ascanio, currently on the 15-day disabled list because of shoulder pain, would not be able to start, it needed someone to take the innings Ross Ohlendorf and Kevin Hart will not. Each is on an inning limit for the season. Also, the team would prefer to see more of Phil Dumatrait out of the bullpen.

"We were going to try to go with a five-man rotation, so Daniel's work would have been limited," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We thought Team USA would have been best for his development. Unfortunately, some of the guys we thought could come up and fill a couple starts have not pitched well of late."

That was a clear reference to struggling Eric Hacker and Virgil Vasquez.

To make up for pulling away McCutchen, the Pirates are planning to offer Brad Lincoln, their top pitching prospect, to Team USA.

Doumit back in lineup

Catcher Ryan Doumit was back in the lineup after being benched in mid-game Friday and again Saturday.

Manager John Russell and Doumit each continued to decline comment on the matter.

Doumit went 0 for 4 with a popup, groundout into a double play, strikeout and lineout. His average is at .215.

Bixler demoted again

To clear space on the 25-man roster for McCutchen, the Pirates optioned shortstop Brian Bixler back to Indianapolis after another uneventful two-week stint. He has struck out 23 times in 33 at-bats this season, five in nine at-bats this time.

Another move to clear space on the 40-man roster will be made this morning.

Buried treasure

• Reliever Jeff Karstens (back) began a rehabilitation stint with Indianapolis last night.

• Expect third base prospect Neil Walker to be among the September callups, if not tomorrow, then after Indianapolis' season ends.

• The Pirates signed journeyman reliever Jorge Julio, 30, to a minor league contract and assigned him to Indianapolis. In his most recent stint, he had a 5.96 ERA in 23 innings for the Tampa Bay Rays' Class AAA affiliate. He began the season with Milwaukee.

• The Pirates would have to double their current 21-game losing streak in Milwaukee to match the longest such run of futility in Pittsburgh history: The Penguins played 15 years at Philadelphia's old Spectrum without beating the Flyers, going 0-39-3 from 1974-89.

Catch more on the Pirates with your comments at the PBC Blog . Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com .


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