Pirates Notebook: Sore neck puts McCutchen on the bench
CHICAGO -- Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen was scratched from Sunday's lineup against the Cubs with a stiff neck. The soreness came about after McCutchen dived for a fly ball in Saturday's game, missed and landed hard on the Wrigley Field grass.
"Diving on that cement out there," McCutchen said, as he described the surface with a laugh.
His status as the Pirates begin a three-game series tonight in St. Louis is day to day.
McCutchen's health forced a bit of indecision before Sunday's game. The Pirates' lineup card was tacked onto the wall in the clubhouse later than usual because of uncertainty about his availability.
After arriving at the ballpark, McCutchen was examined by the Pirates' medical staff and penciled into his usual place in the lineup -- batting third and playing center field.
He then took batting practice. Following that, McCutchen relayed to the staff that he was not fit to play.
In his place, Jose Tabata slid over to center field, Matt Diaz started in left with Garrett Jones in right. Order changes involved Jones batting second, second baseman Neil Walker hitting third and Diaz sixth.
Save the furor. Things weren't as they appeared.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle didn't have the guy who hit a grand slam in the opener -- Neil Walker -- attempt to bunt Saturday when the game was close before the Pirates frittered away a 3-0 lead in a 5-3 loss.
It happened in the third inning on Saturday.
"Missed a sign," Hurdle said. "That's what it was."
In the inning, which began with the Pirates leading 1-0, Tabata started off with a single. Walker squared to bunt but didn't get it down, fouling off the attempt.
Walker, who had three extra-base hits in the first two games, eventually doubled to score Tabata.
But, what about that bunt attempt?
"We missed a couple signs and we had some disconnects," Hurdle said. "I'm a much bigger fan of the hit and run than I am of the sacrifice bunt. ... I am not going to play for one run very often in games, I am going to play for the big inning."
In the first two games this season, shortstop Ronny Cedeno walked twice.
On the surface, two walks in two games would seem to have little news value. But this is Cedeno, a free-swinger who walked once in spring training and just 23 times in 502 plate appearances last season. When Cedeno was with the Cubs in 2006 he walked 17 times in 572 plate appearances.
So, what of his newfound patience?
"There has been some incremental growth," Hurdle said. "It is not drastic, it is not going to happen overnight. But I like the steps that are happening. He has got to get better, it has been one of the maddening things with Ron at the plate."
Catcher Jason Jaramillo got his first start of the season. ... Diaz was due to start the game, even before McCutchen was scratched. With the Pirates facing six consecutive right-handed pitchers to start the season, Hurdle was going to give Diaz the start to keep him fresh, even if the plan is to start Jones in right against most right-handed pitchers. ... General manager Neal Huntington said pitcher Tim Alderson, acquired in a trade with the Giants for Freddy Sanchez, has been moved to the bullpen. He will begin the season in Class AA Altoona.
First Published April 4, 2011 12:00 am