Pirates notebook: 'All is well' for Andrew McCutchen despite nagging ankle

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MILWAUKEE -- Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen returned to the starting lineup Saturday night "feeling good" after a left ankle problem forced him from the game Friday.

McCutchen said he could not pinpoint the moment his ankle started bothering him, but he left the game after an eighth-inning at-bat.

"It just happened during the game. I don't know what particular thing might have set it off," McCutchen said. "A swing or something. Really not too sure. [But] I feel fine. Good enough to go out and hit, swing, run and throw."

McCutchen was evaluated by team doctors again Saturday, according to manager Clint Hurdle. When everything checked out, he was inserted back into center field and the No. 3 spot in the order.

"Went out and did all the testing he could. He ran on the field. Turns, outfield routes, things like that," Hurdle said. "Went in the cage and hit, doctor re-looked at him. He feels comfortable and confident to be able to play."

McCutchen described it as more of a nagging pain than something more serious.

"All is well," he said. "I've felt the type of pain before. It's like when you wake up and your back is hurting. Just one of those things. It's not going to hinder me. I'll be good, be 100 percent."

McCutchen entered Saturday with a league-leading 11 walks, something he said was a bit of a blessing and a curse.

He was hitless Friday, but walked and stole two bases in the 4-2 loss.

"At the same time, it's showing me that I'm seeing the ball well, not just going up there striking out all the time," McCutchen said. "I'm seeing the ball well, having good at-bats. I know on the other hand things will turn around for me on the offensive standpoint getting my hits. The hits are going to come. I felt great [Friday]. Just have to remain patient."

Hurdle said he has seen this situation before.

"The [awards] will do that. I've seen it happen," Hurdle said. "To me there's a definite change in pattern playing right now. They're [trying] to find out where his soft spot is. Pedro [Alvarez] has been able to throw some punches back professionally, and Cutch has been very disciplined with his at-bats to take the walks."

Early slump

Shortstop Jordy Mercer, who entered Saturday on an 0-for-9 streak, batted just .138 in the first 10 games.

He could be pressing a bit subconsciously, Hurdle said, recognizing that Mercer is in the starting shortstop role for the first time.

"It could be a little of that. You're now in a different situation than you've been in before," he said. "You're the top-tier shortstop. You're the guy that's getting the reps. Last year it was filling in, still wasn't like he was the starting shortstop."

Hurdle said time and patience should help.

"It's experience. He's growing through it. It has challenged a lot of young players. He's not the first one. He continues to put the work in that's necessary to work through it and work out of it."

A lot on the plate

Thursday's call at home plate against Chicago provided a teaching moment, said Hurdle, who wants his catchers to not get too caught up in thinking about the new home plate collision rules when making a play.

There was no obstruction call on catcher Tony Sanchez on the play, but Starlin Castro was called safe despite the ball beating him to the plate.

"The thing we continue to remind these guys of is you've got to go make an athletic play," Hurdle said. "You can't be thinking through the play. With the throw, the tag, practice it the best you can. Be purposeful moving in. Be mindful of it. We did roll through it with Tony again and show him, as we did with Russell [Martin] just to see it. We're all trying to make sure that we stay within the guidelines of what we've got to do to make a play to get an out."

Aramis Ramirez's home run against the Pirates Friday night was the 31st he's hit against them since they traded him away July 23, 2003 -- most of any ex-Pirate against their former team. The leaders:

Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.

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