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McCutchen out indefinitely with fractured cartilage of rib

| Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, 8:51 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen sits in the dugout with teammates during the second inning against the Marlins on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, at PNC Park.

Andrew McCutchen has avoided a trip to the disabled list — for now.

The Pirates center fielder fractured cartilage of the rib, the team announced Tuesday, and is out indefinitely, though the reigning National League MVP remained optimistic about a quick recovery.

“We don't want to make a decision yet and put me on the DL right away because there's a possibility that I could be better before 15 days are up,” said McCutchen, who described the injury as cartilage torn off the rib. “Two days ago I couldn't put my shoes on.

“I can put my shoes on, put my clothes on, everything fine. Nothing bothers me like that, so I'm improving. We'll see what happens.”

The Pirates described the injury as an “avulsion fracture involving the costochondral cartilage of the left 11th rib.” McCutchen said he would be re-evaluated in a couple days.

McCutchen took a swing in the eighth inning of Sunday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, grabbed his left side as he jogged to first and had to be helped by a trainer down the steps of the dugout.

The 2013 NL MVP said he didn't know whether the injury was related to getting hit by a pitch Saturday and wouldn't count it out, but manager Clint Hurdle said he didn't believe there was a connection.

“It's my understanding that it's completely separate incident,” Hurdle said. “He was hit in the back, in the spine. This is a fracture of the rib. A conspiracy theory, if that's what you like to do, you can go for it. I don't think it's factual nor accurate.”

McCutchen ranks in the top four in the NL in batting average (.311), RBIs (67), hits (128), total bases (221) doubles (32), on-base percentage (.411), extra-base hits (54) and walks (68).

Hurdle said the team has some time before a decision must be made regarding placing McCutchen on the disabled list.

The Pirates will be playing a man short with him unavailable.

“Your choices are to put him on (the DL) early and sit 15 days or maybe get him back before then in a productive state,” Hurdle said. “That's what we have to figure out. We want to take care of him first and take care of the team the best we can as well.”

Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist based in Charleston, S.C., who has not seen MRIs of McCutchen or evaluated him, said the injury likely resulted from “some sort of twisting motion that produces a torsion stress on the abdominal muscles and rib cage.”

He said treatment of an avulsion fracture is similar to treatment of an oblique strain.

“You completely shut him down and gradually increase activities based upon how the pain is improving,” said Geier, who estimated McCutchen could miss anywhere from one to two weeks to as many as four to six weeks.

For now, McCutchen's plan is to rest and get the treatment from team trainers.

“If I'm out there throwing, playing, running, sliding, jumping and all that and I'm not thinking about it, I'm good,” McCutchen said. “All I can say is it's better than an oblique injury. It's cartilage off the rib, and that heals quicker than muscle. My body responds pretty well to a lot of different things, and I'll be back on my feet, hopefully, in no time.”

Staff writer Travis Sawchik contributed. Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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