Pirates Notebook: Hurdle benches McCutchen
Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen sits in the dugout after being benched by manager Clint Hurdle against the Dodgers at PNC Park Thursday.
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Pirates manager Clint Hurdle benched center fielder Andrew McCutchen, one of the team's leaders and one of the faces of the franchise, for the game Thursday against Los Angeles because he did not hustle in the eighth inning of the 2-0 loss Wednesday night against the Dodgers at PNC Park.
"It's a manager's decision," Hurdle said of holding McCutchen out of the starting lineup.
"It's along the lines that our players clearly understand what is important to me. As we create an identity of who we are and what we are ... there are certain things that need to be done. I talked to Andrew, and he understands and you can't look past it, you can't stick your head in the sand."
McCutchen, however, was available for duty off the bench, and Xavier Paul started in center field and led off in a game that eventually was rained out.
On the play that led to the benching, McCutchen led off the inning with a swinging strikeout against reliever Matt Guerrier to finish an 0-for-4 night. The third strike, however, bounced away from catcher Rod Barajas as McCutchen failed to run. Barajas tracked down the ball, which trickled between the plate and first-base dugout, and threw to first baseman James Loney for the first out.
McCutchen was informed of the benching Thursday afternoon in a meeting with Hurdle, who stresses accountability.
Thinking back on the situation, McCutchen was contrite and understood it was out of character for him as he usually is a player who goes full bore all the time.
"You live and you learn, that's the game of baseball," McCutchen said. "It needs to be played the right way. It was brought to my attention that that's not the way I play. And I know that.
"It's a lesson learned. ... I know that's not the type of person I am. I just kind of let my emotions get the best of me. I was just frustrated at the time and not focused on the game, not focused on the ball in the dirt.
"Lesson learned. I'll go from there."
Hurdle also benched shortstop Ronny Cedeno April 27 against the San Francisco Giants for failing to run out a dribbler down the third-base line the previous night.
"We are focused on winning, but we are focused on building something greater and better as we go forward," Hurdle said. "I think there are certain things that are non-negotiable.
"Things happen during the game where mistakes are made that are a different entity, as far as physical. But I know our men believe; sometimes they just need help with their direction."
There might not be a minor leaguer in the Pirates system who has faced more criticism the past 20 months or so than pitcher Tim Alderson.
The right-hander was the only player acquired July 29, 2009, in the deal with San Francisco for former batting champion Freddy Sanchez. Alderson, 22, has a long body (6 feet 6) and a longer pedigree: He was the Giants' first-round pick in 2007.
But, in 382/3 innings with Altoona after the trade, he gave up 39 hits and 20 earned runs and had a 4.66 ERA. Last season, he lost velocity and was demoted for a time to Class A Bradenton.
There seems to be an uptick for Alderson, now a reliever, in his recent outings. In seven appearances since April 18, he has pitched 12 innings, struck out 13 and allowed one unearned run.
"There are some mechanical things that he's starting to take hold of and own," Pirates director of player development Kyle Stark said.
"He's having fun again competing, which always helps. As far as has there been a noticeable change in 'stuff'? No. But it is playing better because he's believing in it and having fun doing it."
• Utilityman Steve Pearce spent some of the afternoon working on double-play pivots as a second baseman with infield instructor Nick Leyva. "I had talked to Pearce about it previously," Hurdle said. "In case he gets thrown into that situation, there's been a little work done." Pearce almost certainly would not start at second, but he could be used there when the bench thins late in the game.
• Pitcher Kevin Hart, rehabilitating from shoulder surgery last May, threw a simulated game of 25 pitches at PNC Park to Paul and Brandon Wood. It was the first time Hart has thrown to a batter since a minor league game April 28, 2010.
First Published May 13, 2011 12:00 am