13-time All-Star Griffey impressed with Pirates' McCutchen

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 8:30 p.m.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Ken Griffey Jr. flipped on his television a couple of weeks ago specifically to get a good look at Andrew McCutchen.

Griffey had heard talk that McCutchen was scuffling, stuck in an 0-for-10 skid. As he settled in to watch the Pirates play the Los Angeles Dodgers, Griffey wondered how McCutchen would fare against pitcher Zack Greinke.

“I was like, ‘Let me see what's going on with McCutchen,' ” Griffey said. “And it was double, double, home run. I was like, ‘All right. That's enough for me.' ”

Griffey and McCutchen sat down Tuesday afternoon at Tropicana Field to chat for about a half-hour about the science of hitting. Their conversation will be part of a future episode of a show called “Big Sticks,” which airs on Fox Sports 1.

“He said he likes my swing,” McCutchen said, smiling. “That's good to hear coming from someone like him.”

Later, Griffey leaned against the railing in the Pirates dugout, watching McCutchen take batting practice. Griffey said the reigning National League MVP reminds him of a certain Hall of Famer.

“McCutchen is the modern-day Rickey Henderson,” Griffey said. “He's a complete hitter. He can hit for average. He can hit for power. What makes him really dangerous is he can run. If you pitch around him, he can steal second and third. He'll get on base and cause a whole lot of havoc.”

Griffey again mentioned that June 1 game against the Dodgers, when McCutchen delivered extra-base hits in his first three at-bats.

“It was one of those games when you just sit there and say, ‘He got it!' ” Griffey said.

Griffey knows a few things about hitting. A 13-time All-Star, Griffey has a lifetime .284 batting average and a .907 on-base plus slugging percentage. He got MVP votes in 10 seasons, winning the award in 1997.

“He was The Kid,” McCutchen said. “He was the young guy who could do it all. As a kid, growing up watching it, it was exciting for me to see. He was somebody I wanted to mold my game after.”

Griffey has studied McCutchen's progress over the past three years and has seen him mature as a hitter and as an outfielder.

“He's very smart,” Griffey said. “Look at how he positions himself. Guys with a lot of speed sometimes let their speed take over for mistakes they make with positioning. He doesn't. If he makes a sliding catch, it's because that guy wasn't supposed to hit the ball there. He positions himself a lot better in the last couple years, trying to save his legs so he can go to the plate and drive the ball.”

McCutchen's biggest improvement, Griffey said, is that he no longer allows occasional failures to get him down.

“If he gets himself out, he can bounce back. Somebody else is going to pay,” Griffey said. “You can see his confidence level from two years ago to now. It's totally different. When he struggled in 2011, you could see it. Now he's one of those players who says, ‘Oh, you got me out? All right. I'm going to file that until I see you the next time.' That's the difference.”

Could McCutchen win another MVP? Or two? Or more? Griffey did not hesitate.

“It wouldn't surprise me at all,” Griffey 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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