Minor League Notebook: McCutchen finally warming up
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Andrew McCutchen just spent the better part of two weeks learning a lot about what it will be like playing for the Pirates.
And never mind that in those two weeks he hit only .163.
The key thing was McCutchen played in cold weather for the first time in his life.
"A new experience for me," McCutchen, a center fielder for Altoona, said yesterday.
McCutchen, the Pirates' top draft pick in 2005, is from Fort Meade, Fla.
No cold weather there.
He spent most of that 2005 summer playing in Bradenton.
Definitely no cold weather there.
He spent most of last season playing for Class A Hickory in North Carolina.
"We got lucky," McCutchen said. "It was never under 55 degrees."
It wasn't until the Curve's 11th game -- played Friday -- that McCutchen and his teammates had a game for which the game-time temperature was above 54 degrees.
"It's something I'll get used to," McCutchen said of the cold. "The thing is, you have to wear so many layers -- and you're still cold. All those layers make me feel tight, and I'm a loose guy.
"Trying to hit was the worst. You've got to keep your hands warm and you can't feel the bat. And if you hit the ball in the wrong spot, your hands sting."
That cold start explains McCutchen's chilly start.
"It's a poor excuse, but the cold weather bothered him more than it did a lot of people," said Brian Graham, the Pirates' senior director of player development. "He'd never played in that kind of cold weather."
The Curve's first three games -- after Altoona was snowed out of three games in Erie -- were played in Akron. The chill factor hovered just under 30 degrees for two of those games.
"Brutal conditions," Altoona manager Tim Leiper said. "The games moved at a snail's pace."
McCutchen went hitless in his first 15 at-bats.
"A lot was made of that," Leiper said, "but he actually had good at-bat after good at-bat."
McCutchen snapped his hitless streak with a three-hit game against Reading April 13, but then endured an 0-for-12 slide.
"He didn't panic," Leiper said. "That was the greatest thing of all. It showed his maturity."
"The way I look at it, I still have over 500 at-bats to go," McCutchen said.
And the good thing about that?
He'll take almost all of them in warm weather -- either for Altoona or Class AAA Indianapolis.
Said Graham: "Performance will dictate when he moves up."
One to watch
Pirates fans have heard a bunch about McCutchen -- and rightfully so -- but they also should keep their eyes on another outfielder, too.
James Boone hasn't received much attention, but the 24-year-old switch-hitter is raising some eyebrows with Class A Hickory.
Through Sunday, Boone had a .333 batting average in 57 at-bats.
That's a good start for the Pirates' third-round draft pick in 2005 who missed almost all of last season because of a stress fracture in his foot and then season-ending shoulder surgery.
Boone showed much promise in his first professional summer, batting .291 with 12 doubles, 8 home runs and 42 RBIs in 68 games with Williamsport.
It appears he's getting back to that level now that he's healthy.
"He has a chance to be a fun guy to watch," Graham said. "He has a chance to be a good offensive player. We hope he continues to play well so that in a couple of months we can [promote] him."
Put Jamie Romak in that category, too.
Romak, acquired from Atlanta in the Adam LaRoche/Mike Gonzalez trade, is hitting .313 with four home runs and 13 RBIs for Hickory.
"Boone and Romak are great guys to challenge," Graham said, referring to them playing well enough to get to high Class A Lynchburg before June. "Everybody likes Romak. He's raw, but he has raw power and good bat speed. And he's a better outfielder than our reports indicated. I think we have a tools package in Romak."
It seemed surprising to see 33-year-old Chris Truby's name in the Altoona box score the past couple of days.
Truby, who has played in 263 major-league games, will soon return to Indianapolis, however. He was filling in at Altoona because infielder Javier Guzman has knee trouble and will have surgery tomorrow.
Guzman, whose prospect status has slipped in the past year or so, will be out about a month.
First Published April 23, 2007 11:25 pm