Andrew McCutchen still has shot at NL batting title

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HOUSTON -- Turns out, Andrew McCutchen won't have to overtake suspended San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera for the National League batting title after all.

Major League Baseball and it players union ruled Cabrera ineligible for the award Friday at Cabrera's request. He was suspended last month for violating the league's drug policy after testing positive for testosterone and petitioned the league Wednesday to be taken out of the race for the batting title.

"It was manly of him to do that," McCutchen said. "I guess he thinks that was the right thing to do, and I commend him for doing that."

McCutchen was hitting .339 entering a three-game series against the Astros. Giants catcher Buster Posey was hitting .335.

"I'm not worried about that right now," McCutchen said of the race for the batting title. "I'm just trying to go out and win right now. We've got something bigger than that. That's a personal accolade right there, and I don't focus on those things until the season's over with."

Cabrera was hitting .346 when he was suspended for 50 games -- which will stretch through the end of the regular season. He had 501 at-bats, one shy of the minimum to be considered for the batting title. But Official Baseball Rule 10.22(a) says for any player who does not reach the minimum number of at-bats, as many hitless at-bats as necessary to reach the league minimum to qualify for the award can be added to his total. If that player still has the highest league batting average, he wins the batting title.

The rule is generally meant for injured players.

But the league and the union, at Cabrera's request, decided the portion of the rule that allows a player to add hitless at-bats will not apply this season to players suspended for violating the league's drug policy.

"I believe that, under these circumstances, the outcome is appropriate, particularly for Mr. Cabrera's peers who are contending for the batting crown," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.

Many Pirates agreed.

"I think it's fair to the game," catcher Rod Barajas said. "If that does happen in season, and somebody gets caught, then I don't think they should be eligible to win the awards."

Barajas said he would like to see the rule permanently changed so a similar situation does not arise in the future.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he planned to talk about the rule with league officials after the season, and the decision could lead to more discussions.

"I do believe some good will come from this in the future," Hurdle said.

Walker scratched again

Pirates second baseman Neil Walker was scratched from the lineup and replaced by Brock Holt.

Walker continues to deal with discomfort in his lower back, which has allowed him to start back-to-back games only once since Aug. 26.

Holt hit eighth, and Clint Barmes -- who was originally going to hit eighth -- hit second.

Karstens could start

Jeff Karstens, who has worked his way back from a hip flexor injury, could still make a start before the season is over, Hurdle said.

"We haven't closed the door on that," he said. "We want to be open minded."

Hurdle said he would likely keep Kevin Correia, Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett working on their normal routine through the end of the season. The Pirates might consider inserting Karstens in place of Jeff Locke or Kyle McPherson, but discussions are ongoing, Hurdle said.

McDonald in relief

James McDonald's move to the bullpen is not an effort to shut down the right-handed pitcher. McDonald likely will make three appearances out of the bullpen before the season is over, Hurdle said. The team's best pitcher in the first half of the season, McDonald has struggled since and was removed from the starting rotation last week.


First Published September 22, 2012 4:15 AM


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