MILWAUKEE -- There was no panic in the Pirates' clubhouse when star center fielder Andrew McCutchen started the season in slow motion.
The man who finished third in MVP voting last season and garnered enough attention to put his picture on a video game cover got off to the worst start of his career in April.
His batting average dipped as low as .209, and he had a 10-game stretch where he went 5 for 37 (.135) with five strikeouts and three RBIs.
But McCutchen didn't tinker with his swing or alter his approach. There were no complaints from the coaching staff nor grumbles from within the clubhouse. Everybody figured it was just a slump and no real reason for alarm.
That's why when McCutchen finally broke through with a four-hit, two-RBI game earlier this week, he didn't exhale. He was never worried in the first place.
"My confidence is always through the roof, regardless of the outcome," he said. "If you focus on the results, it's going to be a long season. It's the end of April. I know what I'm capable of doing."
That sentiment echoed a line manager Clint Hurdle dropped earlier in the week.
"You become a pro when your results don't dictate the level of your confidence," Hurdle said Monday, a day before McCutchen's big game.
Without many contributions from McCutchen, the Pirates won 15 games in April for the first time since 1992 and grabbed the National League Central Division lead for a few days at the end of the month.
In that span, the Pirates have received notable contributions from a number of other players. The back end of the bullpen has been as dominant as any group of relievers in the majors. Starling Marte is putting up phenomenal numbers from the leadoff spot, especially in the first inning. And after his own slow start, Russell Martin has found some success at the plate and leads the team in home runs.
"At the end of the day, it's probably been a good breath for him to be able to take," Hurdle said. "Not that anybody likes to not be playing at the top of their game, but we needed him almost at the top of the game, it seemed, last year for us to get some things done. Now, he's been able to watch other guys come through.
"That bag might not be as heavy to carry this year as it has been in the past."
Whether that's true or not, McCutchen does not think too much about his load when it comes to the team's success. He tries to focus on his process and trusts that his process will help him out of rough stretches.
McCutchen stuck to a similar video routine through his slump, mainly studying opposing pitchers and the approaches they take against hitters. Only once, he said, did he study video of himself at the plate. And even then, it was a brief look.
"I've seen a couple things," he said. "I've seen what I need to see."
He doesn't like to study himself in that way for fear of overanalyzing the mechanics of his swing.
"You don't want your mind to be thinking all kinds of things when you're up there at the plate," McCutchen said. "That's the last thing you want -- to be thinking my hands are here, my legs are here, all that. That's when you won't be focused on the actual pitch and be ready to hit."
His batting average of balls in play, which measures how frequently balls in play result in hits, is .231, well below the league average of .293. And his strikeouts are down from 2012 and his career average, so he is due to start getting more hits by the law of averages.
And when that happens, McCutchen will say he knew it would.
"I know that once I get locked in, there's going to be no stopping me."
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino.