Pirates notebook: A little rest goes a long way for McCutchen

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen dives to first base during the first inning against the Mariners Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at PNC Park.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen dives to first base during the first inning against the Mariners Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at PNC Park.
Photo by Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Rob Biertempfel
| Thursday, May 9, 2013, 7:27 p.m.

NEW YORK — Getting a rare day off seems to have helped Andrew McCutchen break out of one of the worst slumps of his career.

Over the first 24 games of the season, McCutchen batted .216. That funk included an 0-for-17 stretch that was the longest he'd gone without a hit.

McCutchen didn't play April 28 in St. Louis. In eight games since, not including Thursday, he's hit .438.


“It might have (helped),” manager Clint Hurdle said. “You try to be smart with the days off. But do I think I have some sort of magic wand? If that was the case, I'd take a day off and come back smarter.”

Pitchers might have made small adjustments against McCutchen, but in general, they are going at him the same as last year. McCutchen said it was a matter of getting his timing back.

“My confidence is always through the roof, regardless of the outcome,” McCutchen said. “I know what I'm capable of doing. Once I get locked in, there'll be no stopping me.”

McCutchen usually does not spend a lot of time reviewing video of his at-bats, poring over minutia, and he's sticking with that approach.

“Be ready to hit, that's it,” McCutchen said. “This game can be very difficult if you think about numbers or all that stuff from every other place. If you simplify this game as much as you can, that's when things get easier for you.”

McCutchen's struggles at the plate did not shackle the offense.

“It just goes to show we've got other guys on the team who are capable of winning us ballgames,” Hurdle said. “... It's probably been a good breather for him to take. Not that anybody doesn't like to be playing at the top of their game, but it seemed we needed him almost at the top of his game last year to get things done. He's been able to watch other guys come through, so that bag might not be as heavy to carry as it's been in the past.”

McCutchen's day off against the Cardinals was the first time he hadn't played since Aug. 31, 2012, ending a 55-game streak.

“We take a lot of pride in, if somebody is getting a day off, we play well enough to give them a full day off,” infielder John McDonald said. “It was great that McCutchen didn't have to play. He didn't have to pinch hit, he didn't have to go in to play defense. It's great he was able to just sit and relax. We're obviously a good ballclub when he's swinging the bat well, but it takes everybody.”

Planet of the aches

The Pirates officially paused Charlie Morton's rehab assignment after he had shoulder soreness last week. That means he can get another full, 30-day stint once he returns to game action. Morton is recovering from elbow surgery. On Thursday, Hurdle said Morton would throw a bullpen session either Thursday or Friday. ... On Thursday, Neil Walker (hand laceration) began his rehab assignment with Double-A Altoona and had one hit (a double) in four at-bats. He is eligible to be activated Sunday.

Upon further review

Hurdle agrees with MLB officials who say the umpires blew it Wednesday on a disputed instant replay ruling that robbed Oakland's Adam Rosales of what should have been a game-tying homer.

“I thought it was a missed call,” Hurdle said. “The hard part to understand is, I think we're arguing semantics rather than just what your eyes tell you. They've got to be 100 percent convinced that the (replay) can reverse the call. There's a lot of disconnects from (the umpires') angle.”

Hurdle said the play in the Oakland-Cleveland game was the first glaring misuse of replay.

“This is the first one where there definitely is a line drawn where you go, ‘Wow,' ” Hurdle said.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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