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Pirates notebook: McCutchen scratched with soreness in right knee

| Sunday, May 19, 2013, 12:39 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen stands next to manager Clint Hurdle in the dugout Sunday, May 19, 2013, at PNC Park. McCutchen was scratched from the game against the Astros with knee discomfort.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Starling Marte runs down a flyball during the second inning against the Astros Sunday, May 19, 2013, at PNC Park. Marte started in center in place of Andrew McCutchen.

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen was scratched from the lineup Sunday because of right knee soreness, but he expects to return for the Pirates' next game Tuesday against the Cubs.

McCutchen said the knee irritation was likely the result of his slide into home Thursday against the Brewers.

“I just wanted to make sure everything is OK,” McCutchen said. “I didn't want to jeopardize the rest of the season by playing through something I wasn't comfortable about. … Everything is good. I should be able to go next game.”

McCutchen was evaluated by medical staff Sunday.

“There was no need for (an MRI),” McCutchen said. “They checked all the ligaments and everything, and made sure everything is good to go. I felt comfortable with everything.”

McCutchen's bat has warmed up recently after a slow start, producing three straight multi hit games to raise his average to .281.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had planned to give outfielder Starling Marte a day off, but he was forced into the lineup — playing center — after McCutchen was a late scratch.

“You need to use your eyes in this game,” Hurdle said before McCutchen's late scratch. “What I've seen the last 48 hours convinced me to give (Marte) 48 hours to recharge his batteries.”

Those plans were scrapped, but what exactly did Hurdle see?

“There's some things you just don't share because it's going to get written,” Hurdle said. “This is not reality TV. I can't give (the media) everything.”

The toughest place to hit East of the Mississippi? PNC Park

PNC Park never has been an offensive paradise, but since the beginning of the 2012 season it has played as one of the best pitcher's parks in baseball.

According to ESPN's Park Factors, which compares the rate of stats at a particular park to other league venues, PNC Park has been the toughest park to homer in this season, and the third- toughest park to score in, ahead of only San Francisco's AT&T Park and Citi Field in New York.

In 2012, PNC Park ranked as the third-most favorable pitcher's park, in regard to scoring, after being more a neutral park for much of the last decade.

The Pirates' home ranked ahead of AT&T Park and Seattle's Safeco Field, where the heavy Pacific air typically dampens offense.

“The park seems to be playing bigger,” Hurdle said. “The night (games) we have played the ball has not traveled, the ball has not carried.”

Who's up first?

Before Marte returned to the lineup Sunday, Hurdle planned on going away from convention in batting 235-pound outfielder Travis Snider in the leadoff spot.

The decision should please the sabermetric crowd as Hurdle showed a willingness to favor on-base skills over speed at the top of the lineup.

“Snider is (interesting), and if you look at the other seven names, they are not so interesting,” Hurdle said of his original leadoff plans. “I do believe he's a guy who can go up there and give you a shot in the arm.

“I've had guys of similar ilk to him back in Colorado. Mark Sweeney was one. ... Speed is not going to play as much, but you have a guy who can get on base and drive the ball.”

Rehab updates

Jeff Karstens (shoulder) will make an 80-pitch rehab start Thursday, but where he will pitch is to be determined … James McDonald (shoulder) will throw side sessions Tuesday and Thursday and is scheduled to throw 65-pitch rehab outing May 27 with Double-A Altoona.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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