CHICAGO -- Andrew McCutchen says he dodged a bullet.
The Pirates center fielder left the a 3-1 victory Friday against the Cubs in the first inning after Ryan Dempster's 91-mph fastball hit just below the knuckles of his left hand.
"It sounded bad," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
"It didn't feel good, either," McCutchen said.
But a fluoroscope image -- similar to a real-time X-ray -- of his hand did not indicate any broken bones, and McCutchen's preliminary diagnosis is a bone contusion.
"I don't think we could have gotten any better news than what we've gotten," Hurdle said.
McCutchen stayed in the game to run the bases but did not take the field in the bottom half of the inning.
"I tried to give it a little time," McCutchen said. "I've never broken a hand before, so I don't know how a broken hand feels. I wanted to make sure."
He is doubtful for today's game, though he said he hopes to play.
"I've got to go up there with all kinds of padding and stuff next time," he said. "It seems like I'm constantly getting pounded inside, inside, inside."
It was the ninth time McCutchen has been hit by a pitch this season.
"Got lucky with that one," he said.
Jose Tabata was held out of the starting lineup to try to get some rest for his sore left wrist. The issue was moot after McCutchen injured his hand in the first inning, forcing Tabata to enter the game.
Hurdle said he expects Tabata to have occasional days off through the end of the season to rest his wrist, which he injured taking swings in batting practice Aug. 24.
"It's just maintenance of the issue," Hurdle said. "It flares up from time to time. Is he playable? Yeah. How productive he can be, that's the question."
With all due respect to Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times ... for the Cubs, it was almost the former. For the Pirates, definitely the latter.
The Cubs were 16-13 in August -- their only winning month this season -- while the Pirates were 8-22.
It all started when the Cubs swept the Pirates in four games at the start of the month.
"You can't leave a city winning four straight and not feel good about yourselves and not feel like that's going to help down the road," Cubs manager Mike Quade said.
Since then, their seasons have gone in opposite directions. Whatever had ailed the Cubs through the first four months vanished and began to plague the Pirates.
The Cubs led the National League in slugging percentage (.445) in August; the Pirates were 15th out of 16 teams. The Cubs' 3.74 team ERA in August was second best in the Central. The Pirates' team ERA in August was 5.36, the worst in the majors.
"They've got power, they've got average," Hurdle said. "And now those things are starting to play out much better for them, that's why they're scoring the runs they're scoring."
The Cubs started August 12 games behind the Pirates in the standings. After the Pirates' win Friday, the Cubs are four games behind for fourth place in the NL Central
Starter Jeff Karstens, who skipped a start Friday, may miss another. "We're leaning that way," Hurdle said.
Karstens is dealing with a sore right shoulder, which he disclosed on the heels of a couple bad outings. Brian Burres started in his place Friday.
Karstens played catch Friday in Chicago -- the first time he has thrown since he pitched Sunday.
"Right now everything feels good. I just want to make sure I don't really rush it," Karstens said. "I thought I felt fine after the last game, then I felt a little bit of fatigue. So I want to make sure that my strength is really good before I come back. Hopefully it's one start, maybe two at the most."
Derrek Lee (broken wrist) took batting practice outdoors and could rejoin the team as soon as today. He crushed a couple pitches to the bushes in straight-away center at Wrigley Field.
He said he is "hopefully close" to returning and indicated there was a good chance he would play in Chicago, his onetime home.
Hurdle said Lee will get the "volume" of starts at first base when he returns.
"We need to find out what Derrek's capable of, and how he fits here," Hurdle said. "Is there a future? I don't know. I don't think he knows."
• Ryan Ludwick (back) began a four-game rehab assignment in Class AAA Indianapolis Friday. He will be activated from the disabled list Wednesday, Hurdle said.
• Pedro Alvarez will likely rejoin the Pirates once Indianapolis' season ends Tuesday, or later, if the Indians make the playoffs. "He needs to play," Hurdle said. "He needs to figure some things out in this environment." But Hurdle said Alvarez will not be entitled to the majority of starts at third base should he return.