Pirates notebook: McCutchen says 'I don't forget' after plunking

Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, 5:05 p.m.

PHOENIX — Hours before Saturday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Andrew McCutchen knew he was a dead man walking.

On Friday, a fastball from Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri broke the left hand of slugger Paul Goldschmidt and sidelined him for the season. The next day, McCutchen figured he would get plunked, too — and he did.

“It's because I'm the star player here,” McCutchen said. “It's not like we have four or five guys, like some teams, so they can pick and choose (who to hit). I've got a bull's-eye on me. That has something to do with it. I guess that's the game.”

In the ninth inning, Diamondbacks reliever Randall Delgado drilled McCutchen in the back with a 95 mph fastball. The next day, McCutchen was stiff and sore, but he insisted on being in the lineup for the final game of the four-game series.

Manager Clint Hurdle was not surprised that McCutchen was targeted.

“Speaking from experience ... if the best player on your team gets hit, the best player on their team gets hit,” Hurdle said. “If teams are trying to identify players to impede productivity, Andrew would be the guy you'd start with on our club.

“(George) Brett got hit when I played in Kansas City. Frank Robinson got hit a lot. Don Baylor got hit a lot. They were always the premier players on the teams they were on.”

McCutchen expected to get hit in the first inning when he came to bat with Josh Harrison on first base and one out. But right-hander Chase Anderson pitched him away and walked him. McCutchen grounded out in the third and singled in the sixth and eighth innings.

The whole time, he was wondering when he would take a pitch off his body.

“Of course, it's in your head,” McCutchen said. “But you can't let that dictate your at-bats. Once you start thinking, ‘Uh oh, they're going to hit me ...' that's when you strike out.

“My first at-bat, I thought that was the perfect opportunity for them to hit me, so I prepared myself for it. Fastball, down and away. Then a changeup or whatever next pitch. I thought, ‘OK, they're not going to hit me,' and I had a good at-bat and ended up walking. As the game went on, it didn't happen, and I thought they weren't going to do it. You think about it at first, but I don't want that to get in the way of my approach at the plate because I'm not trying to give away at-bats.”

In the ninth, there were runners on second and third with one out. Delgado's first pitch was high and tight. The second was a slider away. The third was a fastball that caught McCutchen squarely on the spine.

“They did what they needed to do. They hit me,” McCutchen said. “We'll move on. Just remember: I don't forget.”

Nix acquired

The Pirates signed free agent Jayson Nix and sent Brent Morel back to Triple-A Indianapolis. To make space for Nix on the 40-man roster, Indy infielder Dean Anna was designated for assignment.

Nix began the season with the Philadelphia Phillies, then signed with the Tampa Bay Rays in mid-May. A few days ago, he exercised an out clause in his contract.

Nix, 31, can play all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots. A seven-year veteran, Nix has hit .216 with a .641 OPS in his career. He also has been with the Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees.

“Jayson is a right-handed bat that has some (power),” Hurdle said. “I've got some experience with him in Colorado. He's a former No. 1 pick (44th overall in 2001). He fits our mold — a guy who's had some success, and he's scratched and clawed to fight his way back.”

Planet of the aches

Second baseman Neil Walker (lower back tightness) was out of the lineup Sunday for the second game in a row, but he's optimistic he'll avoid the disabled list. “It locked up on me (Saturday), and we don't want to push it,” Walker said. “With a heavy workload at this time of year, things can tighten up on you. I'm sure with the off day (Monday), I'll be good to go Tuesday. ... Shortstop Clint Barmes (left groin strain) hopes to begin a minor league rehab assignment by the end of this week. If all goes well, he could be activated within two weeks. “I'm really close, and it feels good at this point,” Barmes said. ... Hurdle said right-hander Gerrit Cole (sore lat) came through fine after his bullpen session Saturday with Indy. Also, left fielder Starling Marte (concussion DL) went hitless in four at-bats in the first game of his rehab stint with Indy.

Sweet relief

Lefty reliever Tony Watson tossed a 1-2-3 eighth inning Friday to preserve a 4-4 tie, then picked up the win when the Pirates scored five runs in the ninth.

Watson's record improved to 8-1, which ties him for the team lead in wins with Edinson Volquez. After 108 games, Watson had as many victories as Charlie Morton and Francisco Liriano combined.

“Crazy, isn't it?” Hurdle said.

Watson is tied with Mike Dunn of the Miami Marlins for most wins among all relief pitchers. Only seven relievers have more than five wins.

“How about that, huh?” Watson said with a laugh. “It's just luck of the draw sometimes when you get the innings when we take the lead. It's kind of wild.”

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

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