Pirates notebook: McCutchen closes in on first All-Star start

Andrew McCutchen has appeared in three All-Star games in his career for the Pirates. With the final days of voting coming up for this season’s contest July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis, he has a chance to be in the starting lineup for the National League, something he hasn’t done before.

McCutchen took the outfield lead for the National League in the latest fan-balloting update with 3,173,810 votes, narrowly leading the Milwaukee Brewers’ Carlos Gomez (3,169,748) and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig (3,001,907).

“That’s neat being a part of that, I guess,” he said. “I’ve never really had the opportunity to start. I’ve been in the All-Star Game three times, so having that chance, that opportunity, to start is really cool. We’ll see what happens when the voting is over with and see where I end up.

“You’ve got the fans, and to a player, that means a lot. Regardless, making the team is a lot and to have the chance to start is, you know, something that would can be a dream as well … it’s really cool to be a part of.”

If he starts, he would be the first Pirate —and seventh in franchise history — to earn a fan selection since outfielder Jason Bay in 2006 when the All-Star Game was at PNC Park.

He would join Barry Bonds, Andy Van Slyke, Dave Parker, Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell in that group.

McCutchen took an eight-game hitting streak into the game Tuesday night against Arizona at PNC Park and led the majors with 20 extra-base hits in June. He became the first Pirate with 20 extra-base hits in one month since Brian Giles did it in June 2001.

Fan-voting ends Thursday.

Liriano makes progress

Manager Clint Hurdle said before the game against the Diamondbacks that Francisco Liriano will throw a simulated game today. It will feature him throwing one inning with a screen and three in the simulated game.

Liriano threw 54 pitches in a bullpen session Sunday, and Hurdle said he is feeling “very, very good.” Liriano was placed on the 15-day disabled list June 11 with a strained left oblique muscle.

Bret Michaels visits

There was a new face walking around the clubhouse Tuesday when singer-songwriter Bret Michaels paid a visit before his hometown return show tonight in Prospect.

“Yeah, we had a lot of fun with him,” McCutchen said about the Butler native. “We went out [on the field]. He’s a big fan, and we were able to toss the ball around a little bit. I got to watch him take a little bit of batting practice.

“I told him his [batting practice] was better than [Steelers quarterback Ben] Roethlisberger’s. I’m sure he got a good laugh out of that. I’m sure Roethlisberger probably won’t take that too lightly. But, yeah, he looked pretty good out there. He’s a lot of fun to be around.”

Night off for Polanco

Outfielder Gregory Polanco received his first day off Tuesday since being called up June 10 from Class AAA Indianapolis. The 22-year-old is hitting .288 with 14 runs and 10 RBIs.

RJ Schaffer: rschaffer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rjschaffer

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