The Pirates’ postseason hopes received a devastating blow today with the news that center fielder Andrew McCutchen will go on the disabled list with a serious oblique injury. The Post-Gazette report indicated McCutchen could miss three to four weeks.
McCutchen was injured when hitting a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He immediately left the game.
His absence creates a gaping hole for the Pirates.
The obvious replacement is Starling Marte, who is currently on the disabled list as the result of concussion issues. He is currently on a rehab assignment in Indianapolis, which was expected to last through Tuesday or Wednesday. Considering the seriousness with which concussion issues are taken, it seems unlikely the Pirates would rush Marte’s rehab.
When Marte is healthy, he will become the team’s starting center fielder.
Until then, there are not a lot of options. The only other full-time outfielders on the current active roster are Gregory Polanco and Travis Snider. Josh Harrison can play the outfield, but he is currently the starting third baseman. Utility infielder Michael Martinez also can play the outfield and subbed for McCutchen Sunday.
There are two leading candidates to take McCutchen’s roster spot.
* Andrew Lambo is batting .329 with a .942 OPS for the AAA Indianapolis Indians. Lambo hit 32 minor-league home runs last season. He was given an opportunity to make the team as a first baseman in spring training but hit poorly and was demoted. He has five home runs in 158 at bats with the Indians. He missed close to two months of the season with a thumb injury.
* Jose Tabata, who was demoted to Indianapolis in late June, is actually third on the Pirates in batting average at .287, trailing only McCutchen and Harrison. Tabata, however, is struggling in the minors. He is hitting .227 with a .566 OPS in 88 at bats.
Another alternative is a trade. There are outfielders believed to be available, most notably former Pirate Marlon Byrd.
But McCutchen ranks as close to irreplaceable. The Pirates begin a long and extremely difficult part of their schedule Aug. 8. Navigating those games without their best player puts the team at a disadvantage in making the playoffs.
First Published August 4, 2014 12:00 AM