Andrew McCutchen was not in his familiar spot atop the Pirates' lineup Monday tonight, ordered to rest the mildly sprained AC joint in his right shoulder.
But he and the team expressed continuing optimism that his absence will be a short one.
"He's still day to day and, hopefully, we'll get him back sooner rather than later," manager John Russell said. "He's a pretty tough kid, and he's going to be anxious to get back out there, but we need to be smart with it. We should be able to get him out there in the next few days."
McCutchen was hurt Sunday while making a diving catch.
X-rays did not detect a fracture, and McCutchen still has not been scheduled for an MRI. The team has not ruled out any return date, even tonight, but his strict limitation Monday -- no baseball activity at all -- would suggest he might be brought back slowly.
"I don't really know how long it's going to take, but I hope it isn't long," McCutchen said. "This is the worst time to be out, with how we're swinging. You want to be a part of that."
The Pirates had won their previous two games by a combined 21-6.
The Pirates' bullpen has been the team's greatest strength, and it is built entirely on players with guaranteed one-year contracts. But that does not mean it cannot remain intact.
Closer Octavio Dotel, perhaps the most likely player to be traded at the July 31 deadline, has a club option for 2011. Joel Hanrahan, Javier Lopez and D.J. Carrasco are arbitration-eligible, Hanrahan for the first time, Lopez and Carrasco for the third and final time each. Evan Meek cannot qualify for arbitration until 2012.
Only Brendan Donnelly would be an outright free agent in the offseason.
General manager Neal Huntington was asked Monday if there was a chance some or even all could be back next season, obviously pending whether or not they are traded.
"There is always a chance," Huntington said. "We are open to any thoughts, but some guys are clearly more difficult to move than others. Each situation will be evaluated individually."
• Russell stressed that the Pirates will not be employing a strict platoon of catchers Ryan Doumit and Erik Kratz, while reiterating that Kratz will face "some" left-handers. Doumit started Monday against Milwaukee lefty Chris Capuano. "Ryan's still an everyday guy," Russell said. "He's going to get a majority of the playing time. But Erik gives us that ability to go against left-handers when Ryan needs a rest." Kratz batted .346 vs. lefties with Class AAA Indianapolis.
• Although pitching prospect Tim Alderson struggled immensely Sunday in his first start for Class A Bradenton after being demoted from Class AA -- seven runs in 1 2/3 innings -- he will stay in a starting role. Kyle Stark, director of player development, said the team's current focus is not results but "delivery and mentality adjustments." He added, "We actually didn't force anything on Tim and just wanted him to get back on the mound to see how he dealt with the adversity of getting sent down. Obviously, the results weren't good, but we're putting a plan in place."
• The Pirates have two Dominican Summer League all-stars: Reliever Angel Sanchez, a 6-foot-7, 17-year-old left-hander, has a 2.95 ERA and 16 strikeouts in eight appearances. Catcher Samuel Gonzalez, 21, is batting .348 with one home run and 29 RBIs in 38 games.