Pirates notebook: McCutchen frustrated with opponents' approach
NEW YORK — When Andrew McCutchen came to bat with two outs in the ninth inning Tuesday, he represented the tying run with Travis Snider at first base. Still, Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia had no interest in pitching to McCutchen, walking the reigning National League MVP on five pitches.
The walk was McCutchen's NL-leading 40th of the season. The Pirates center fielder entered Wednesday on pace to walk 132 times. The club record for walks in a season is 137 by Ralph Kiner in 1951.
The pace has McCutchen on track to shatter his career high for walks (89 in 2011) and come close to exceeding his walk total from last season — 78 — by the All-Star break.
“It's frustrating,” McCutchen said. “As a hitter you want to hit. … Ask Barry Bonds. He would probably say, ‘I'd have hit 1,000 home runs if they pitched to me more.' It's frustrating. They are going to pitch around you. But my mindset has to be that they are going to pitch to me every single time. If I thought they were going to pitch around me, and they groove me a fastball right down the middle and I'm not ready to hit it, that might be the only pitch I'm going to see.”
McCutchen has noticed a steady profession of being pitched away from. Only 30 percent of pitches thrown to McCutchen this season are fastballs, the 23rd-lowest rate in baseball. Four of the five pitches from Mejia to McCutchen were sliders.
“A couple years ago, 2012, I had my breakout year. They pitched to me because the year before I hit .260. They weren't afraid,” McCutchen said. “I was able to show them I could hit and drive the ball out of the park. Next year, which was last year, they were a little more selective than they were the year before.
“This year, they are even more selective. You can pretty much tell what the scouting report is: ‘Don't give in. Don't give in to Andrew. Paint the corners, and if you miss, just walk him. Don't give him anything to hit.' That's pretty much what I'm seeing.”
Part of the issue might be lineup protection. Pedro Alvarez's struggles have pushed him out of the clean-up spot. While Ike Davis has had a strong start as a Pirate, he is not yet putting fear into opposing pitchers.
“In a sense, yeah, (lineup protection) matters,” McCutchen said. “(But) there was a guy on first base in the ninth inning (Tuesday), and I didn't get anything to hit.”
2 Bucs among top vote-getters
Major League Baseball revealed early All-Star voting results. Two Pirates are among the leaders, with McCutchen second in voting among NL outfielders (467,378 votes), trailing only Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon, and Neil Walker (159,205 votes) fifth among second basemen, where Chase Utley of the Phillies leads the voting.
The Pirates sent five players to the All-Star game last season, their largest delegation since 1979.
During Francisco Liriano's bullpen session Tuesday, pitching coach Ray Searage worked with the left-hander on fine-tuning points in his delivery. Liriano is 0-5 with a 5.06 ERA.
“He picked up some bad habits,” Searage said. “We saw some things on video. … At times, his front side will fly open, (and) he's late with ball-glove separation.”
Grilli closing in
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he would like to have bullpen roles solidified soon. Hurdle did not rule out a returning Jason Grilli to the closer role Wednesday.
“It's soon,” Hurdle said. “It's coming.”
The Texas Rangers claimed right-handed reliever Phil Irwin off waivers. Irwin lost his spot on the Pirates' 40-man roster last week when right-hander Josh Wall was claimed off waivers from the Angels.
Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.
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