Long-term deal interests Pirates' McCutchen

Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011

ST. LOUIS — Talks between the Pirates and outfielder Andrew McCutchen about a long-term contract extension are at a standstill.

However, McCutchen's agent indicated on Saturday that they remain interested in exploring a new deal.

"We have been in discussions before but not now," agent Steve Hammond said. "It didn't lead anywhere, so there have been no more discussions. Now it's time to focus on playing baseball and winning games. We'll see what happens down the road."

Pirates management also has said the team is open to resuming talks. However, when outfielder Jose Tabata's six-year, $15 million contract was announced last week, general manager Neal Huntington did not sound optimistic about working out a long-term deal with McCutchen.

"We hope to keep (McCutchen) here many, many years into the future," Huntington said. "But if we're not able to find a common ground, we've still got many years left with Andrew."

McCutchen is making $452,500 this season. He will come up a few days short of Super-2 status, meaning he will not gain an extra year of arbitration eligibility and the Pirates can set his salary at anything over the MLB minimum for 2012. McCutchen can become a free agent after the 2015 season.

After this year, McCutchen will have two-plus seasons of service time. Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton were two-plus players when they got lucrative, multiyear deals.

Upton inked a six-year, $51.25 million contract in March 2010. Bruce signed a six-year, $51 million contract in December.

Upton (first overall), McCutchen (11th) and Bruce (12th) were first-round draft picks in 2005.

Planet of the aches

Derrek Lee (broken left wrist) threw soft toss on the field Saturday but did not catch the return throws. He is expected to begin taking swings Monday or Tuesday. ... Evan Meek (right shoulder tendinitis) reported to Triple-A Indianapolis to begin the next phase of his rehab assignment. "As he feels better and his pitches start to get crisp, we'll look for an opportunity for him to go on back-to-back days," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ... Chris Snyder (back surgery) has "an outside chance" of playing again this season, Hurdle said. "He's not yet (doing) baseball-related activities — no swinging the bat, no tossing, no getting in the crouch. But he's headed in that direction," Hurdle said.

Bad break for Pearce

Steve Pearce's latest injury could mark the end of his career with the Pirates.

Pearce, who can be a free agent this winter, is likely out for the season after breaking his index finger on a bad-hop grounder Monday in the first game of a doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers.

"It's been one thing after another," Pearce said. "When I got back (from a calf injury), I was in a slump, trying to find it at the plate. Even though I'm not getting the results, I was starting to feel pretty good at the plate — getting a good swing, just not finding any hits. I was starting to get comfortable and into a rhythm and then, boom, the finger happens. It's been extremely frustrating."

That's the story of Pearce's career with the Pirates. He made a rapid rise from Class A to the majors in 2007 but has been set back by injuries and batting slumps.

McKenry's new position

The Pirates ran out of third basemen after Pearce was injured in the eighth inning Monday.

In a moment of creativity — or desperation — Hurdle looked to catcher Michael McKenry, who hadn't played third since college.

"He asked if I could handle it, and I said sure," McKenry said. "We do a lot of drills, infield stuff, just about every other day, so I was ready."

McKenry borrowed Brandon Wood's glove — and also his cap.

"I usually just wear my skullcap (when catching), so I didn't have a real cap," McKenry said. "And I have this little baby glove, like a trainer's glove. Hurdle goes, 'Just use that,' just joking around. It was really funny."

There were two ground balls in the inning, but both were hit to second baseman Neil Walker. Yuniesky Betancourt fouled off a couple to the left side before rolling one to Walker.

"I thought Betancourt was going to hit me a bullet," McKenry said.

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