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Pirates notebook: McCutchen says benching was the 'right move'

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, April 27, 2013, 9:42 p.m.

ST. LOUIS — Trailing by five runs midway through the game Friday night, the Pirates figured their best chance for a comeback involved putting All-Star Andrew McCutchen on the bench.

The gambit failed, as the St. Louis Cardinals still ran away with a 9-1 victory. On the day after, McCutchen's reaction was ... acceptance.

“It was the right move for the team,” McCutchen said.

McCutchen made the final out in the top of the fifth inning. Bench coach Jeff Banister — who ran the team after manager Clint Hurdle was ejected in the first — opted to make a double switch. Relief pitcher Jared Hughes went into McCutchen's No. 3 spot and new outfielder Jose Tabata went into the game batting ninth.

“At that point, my main concern was protecting the bullpen,” Banister said. “We had a chance to get back in that game and win it, and we needed pitching. You always hate to take a guy like McCutchen out of the game, but it was the right decision.”

Tabata grounded out in the seventh and singled in the ninth. McCutchen's spot didn't come up until the eighth inning —Gaby Sanchez pinch-hit for Hughes and was hit by a pitch.

Hurdle not only supported the double-switch decision, he suggested it to Banister from his post-ejection exile in the clubhouse.

“It's the only time after I've been thrown out of a game that I've sent down my thoughts on a situation,” Hurdle said. “I wanted to make sure we did what's best for the team.”

“I've seen (Albert) Pujols double-switched for in the sixth inning. I've seen really good players double-switched for before. But here it hasn't happened before, so it brings questions. But if you sit down and think it through, it makes the most sense to go about it the way we did.”

Hurdle pointed out that McCutchen batted with at least one runner on base in the first, third and fifth innings — and did not get a hit. After going 0 for 4 Saturday, McCutchen is batting .216 and is stuck in a 1-for-25 slump.

“Obviously, this hasn't been his best week swinging the bat, so, c'mon,” Hurdle said.

Hurdle and Banister could have chosen to take right fielder Travis Snider, who batted second, out of the lineup instead of McCutchen.

“If it would've cost us another pitcher, it would have been a very badly played team move,” Hurdle said. “So we put ourselves in the best possible position we could for the team to get through the game with the pitching we had available. Unfortunately, a lot of people can't see that.”

Snider sore, scratched

Snider was scratched from the lineup Saturday due to what a team official described as “discomfort in his right side.” He felt the injury on the last couple swings in batting practice.

“I didn't feel anything grab or rip or anything along those lines,” Snider said. “But when you're dealing with rotational muscles and you feel that fatigue and tightness catch up to you, you've got to take a day.”

No DL Walker ... yet

The Pirates hope to avoid putting second baseman Neil Walker on the disabled list, although he is expected to miss at least five more days due to a deep cut on the knuckle near his right index finger.

Hurdle said he's gotten two different time frames from doctors about how long it should take Walker to recover.

“We'll take it day by day,” Hurdle said. “If it gets to a point where it's problematic to keep him on the (active) roster, then we might have to go in a different direction. Initially, we'll try to play with out him. We'll probably lean on Brandon (Inge) with John McDonald probably picking up a start there as well.”

As he slid into second base in the eighth inning Friday, Walker was spiked by Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma.

“You try to play the game the right way, you try to break up a double play, and sometimes this stuff happens,” Walker said. “Hopefully, it will heal quickly. It was very, very deep — the deepest cut I've had. Fortunately, it didn't hit an tendon or get the bone. It could have been worse.”

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