All-Star list's growth is a plus for Pirates
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The fact that the Pirates had additional candidates for the All-Star Game next week that did not make the team, manager Clint Hurdle said Monday, represents the improvement of the club in recent years.
Andrew McCutchen and Joel Hanrahan were both selected to their second National League All-Star team Sunday, but James McDonald will not join them.
"I think there have been years where it was, 'Well, [the Pirates] have to have one,' " Hurdle said. "I think we were able to change that mindset last year. We didn't just have to have one, we had some that are worthy. This year, we have more that are worthy.
A.J. Burnett also did not make the team.
McDonald, who started Monday night against the Houston Astros at PNC Park, carried a 7-3 record and 2.44 ERA into the game. Burnett is 9-2 and has won eight consecutive starts.
"I think it's a manager's prerogative to fill it out the way he feels best suited to fill it out," Hurdle said. "I thought we had worthy candidates in A.J. and James, and we'll see how the last week [before the game in Kansas City] plays out."
Either could make the team as an injury replacement, although Burnett is scheduled to pitch Sunday against the San Francisco Giants and would likely not be available for the All-Star Game a week from today. McDonald is scheduled to pitch again Saturday and could throw in the game on the same schedule as his usual side work.
The players who voted and NL manager Tony La Russa had to select from a large pool of excellent pitchers.
"There's a number of good men to choose from this year," Hurdle said. "Unfortunately, two good men, our good men, were left off as of now. There's no perfect way."
McCutchen was named NL player of the month for June, when he hit .370 with seven home runs in 27 games.
McCutchen's .420 on-base percentage ranked sixth in the NL for the month, and his .732 slugging percentage ranked fourth.
McCutchen was in the lineup Monday night after testing his sore left wrist in the cage before the game. McCutchen tweaked the wrist on a diving catch Saturday and did not play Sunday.
The Pirates scratched catcher Rod Barajas from the lineup Monday and replaced him with Michael McKenry.
Barajas suffered a bone bruise in his left knee in a play at the plate June 25, when the Philadelphia Phillies Jimmy Rollins slid into his left foot. He missed three days before returning for the game Friday night at St. Louis.
Pedro Alvarez did not start against Houston, but Hurdle said he was available off the bench if needed. Alvarez left the game Sunday due to cramps in his right leg. Hurdle said the cramps had subsided.
"He went out and did all his work and felt like it was close, but we might be in a situation where one more day might put us in a better place," Hurdle said.
Pirates catchers had hit 13 home runs this season before Monday, tying them for third in the NL.
"As you continue to give men opportunity and you give the reps, and they show up and they figure some things out, now you look at the service back there, the RBIs, the home runs, the ability to catch the ball," Hurdle said.
First Published July 3, 2012 12:00 am