Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen has been diagnosed with a rib fracture, but the defending National League MVP has not been placed on the disabled list.
The fracture, according to Pirates officials, is an avulsion fracture involving the costochondral cartilage of the left, 11th rib. The Pirates plan to buy some time and play a man short before determining if McCutchen will need a stint on the DL. He said it was not an injury to the oblique muscle, which was incorrectly reported earlier by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as the likely diagnosis.
“We’ve got some time in front of us, I think, to give him more opportunity to heal, to see when we need to make a decision,” manager Clint Hurdle said Tuesday. “We don’t feel necessary the need to make a decision on his health today.”
McCutchen was diagnosed by a doctor in Arizona and re-evaluated by team doctors in Pittsburgh after he left the game Sunday clutching his left side after his sacrifice fly tied the score.
“Your choices are to put him on early and sit 15 days,” said Hurdle. “Or maybe get him back before then in a productive state. We want to make sure we take care of him first.”
McCutchen said Tuesday he could not bend over and put his shoes on two days ago but that he has improved dramatically since, and he kicked up his legs waist-high to demonstrate his progress.
“Of course, I want to be back there on the field as quick as possible, but, at the same time, I want to be healed, to be able to know when I go out there and make a play or take that same swing it’s not going to bother me,” said McCutchen. “However long that takes? Hopefully, sooner than later.”
He said there is some solace in the fact that he has been assured he did not strain his oblique, an injury that historically carries at least a one-month recovery.
“It’s better than an oblique injury. It’s not my oblique. It’s cartilage off the rib, so those are two different things and that heals quicker than muscle,” said McCutchen. “I’ll be back on my feet hopefully in no time. … Ultimately, it’s going to be how I feel at the end.”
McCutchen said he could not rule out a connection to being drilled by a pitch in the spine Saturday night.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to count that out because I take a million swings a day,” said McCutchen. “One swing, all of a sudden that happens. Not too certain, as far as maybe could that have had something to do with it? At the same time, I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
Hurdle said he believes the two are medically unrelated. “It’s my understanding it’s a completely separate instance. He was hit in the spine, the back, and this is a fracture of the rib, the 11th rib.”
But there is a gray area in the understanding how recovery from this type of injury typically plays out. “This is a new injury I don’t know we’ve got much history with. I think they’re trying to dig with other teams or maybe people that have had it,” Hurdle said.
The Pirates recalled outfielder Starling Marte from his rehab assignment with Class AAA Indianapolis and reinstated him from the seven-day concussion disabled list. He started in center field Tuesday night.
General Manager Neal Huntington said in a statement that McCutchen will remain on the active roster while the team takes the appropriate time to evaluate the next step.
McCutchen was remarkably positive while fielding dozens of questions Tuesday.
That, Hurdle said, is no surprise. He called McCutchen the second-most positive person he has met, after himself, of course.
“Isn’t it refreshing. … He understands in his beliefs that everything happens for a reason,” said Hurdle. “And that this is something that’s going to shape and mold and form him and give the team an opportunity to step up in a lot of different measures.
“Haven’t we been fortunate this is the first time we’ve had to deal with an injury where we’ve even talked about the possibility of him missing a volume of games? I guess it all depends on the lens you use, and Andrew sees life out of a very unique and special lens. And we’re all thankful for it.”
McCutchen said he believes the mind-body connection is a powerful one, and he plans to stay positive.
“Don’t feel bad for me, I’ll be fine. Don’t give up on our team because we’re good,” said McCutchen. “I know we’ll be all right. When I do come back, I’ll let it be known when I come back. Right now, what’s most important is getting myself back, being out there supporting my team. Keeping it positive.
“It’s healing right now as we speak. I can feel it.”
Jenn Menendez firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez First Published August 5, 2014 12:00 AM