Pirates notebook: McCutchen says he's ready to return

Andrew McCutchen pronounced himself ready to return from the disabled list today, the first day the Pirates center fielder is eligible, after encountering no issues in an extended hitting session Monday at PNC Park.

“I felt pretty good out there, made some good contact with some balls,” McCutchen said. “I pretty much did everything. Swing and miss, check-swung, fouled balls off. None of that bothered me.”

Class AA Altoona right-hander Jeff Inman came to PNC Park to pitch to McCutchen so McCutchen could reacquaint himself with velocity and offspeed pitches from a human pitcher rather than a machine.

“I think unless there’s some type of setback, we feel optimistic that he could very well rejoin us [today],” manager Clint Hurdle said.

McCutchen did not go on the DL right away after an Aug. 3 incident produced an avulsion fracture involving the cartilage of the 11th rib on his lower left side, but the Pirates backdated the DL stint to Aug. 4. Taking swings represented the final obstacle, he said, because that is how he hurt himself.`

“If the swing feels good, then I’m going to feel good,” he said. “The swing felt really good today.”

McCutchen wore an EvoShield compression shirt with extra padding around the rib cage to take pressure off the fracture and protect him from getting hit by a pitch. He expects to wear the extra padding the rest of the season.

He said he felt no pain swinging, but could not be sure whether or not any pain remained in his side.

“I have a really high pain tolerance. I could be in a little bit of pain but not even know it,” he said. “It’s not hindering me from doing anything that I have to do on the field.”

The Pirates entered the game Monday with a 5-8 record without McCutchen, though Starling Marte and Travis Snider have helped to cover for his absence.

He’s gotta start somewhere

Pedro Alvarez started his first professional game at first base Monday night, the culmination of a few weeks of work at the position in an effort to return his bat to the lineup.

Alvarez lost his job as the starting third baseman because of an unprecedented number of throwing errors, though injuries forced him to play the position over the weekend.

The move suggests a desire for power instead of on-base percentage; Alvarez has 15 home runs this season, after hitting 30 or more the past two years, but only a .314 OPB after finishing at .296 last season. Ike Davis, the other left-handed option at first base, has a .354 OBP, and a career .337 mark, but only eight homers.

Mercer update

Jordy Mercer (right forearm tightness) did not start his fourth consecutive game. He took grounders before the game but did not make any throws.

Hurdle said Mercer needs more work in the batting cage before returning.

First Published August 18, 2014 7:04 PM

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