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Pirates' McCutchen expects to play Tuesday; Alvarez to start at 1B

| Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, 5:24 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen talks with reporters in the dugout after taking batting practice Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park. McCutchen expects to return to the line-up on Tuesday.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez talks with the Braves' Emilio Bonifacio after working out at first base during batting practice Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park. Alvarez will make his first career start at first base tonight.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole throws in the outfield during batting practice Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, before a game against the Braves at PNC Park.

Andrew McCutchen said following his first batting practice against live pitching Monday at PNC Park he expects to return from the 15-day disabled list when eligible Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves.

The MVP center fielder was placed on the DL on Aug. 11 retroactive to Aug. 4 with a left rib fracture.

“I felt pretty good out there,” he said. “I made some good contact with some balls. I pretty much did everything. Swings and misses, check swung, fouled balls off and none of it bothered me. I'm ready to go.”

McCutchen said he injured himself swinging, so to be able to do so and feel good was the last big test.

“If that feels good, I'm going to feel good, and it felt really good (Monday),” said McCutchen, who admitted having a high tolerance for pain. “The plan is to be in there (Tuesday).”

McCutchen wore padding around his midsection and said he likely will for the rest of the season.

“Compression and protection are basically the two things that it's doing,” he said. “It's still going to be, I'm sure, sore every now and then. The last thing you want is to get hit in the same spot or something like that. You get hit there, you can't control that so you want to be prepared if something like that was to happen. What I have on, that'll do the job for me.”

Even prior to the session, manager Clint Hurdle said the Pirates were optimistic that McCutchen would be ready to play Tuesday.

“The baserunning component has been put in, so unless there's some type of setback, we feel optimistic that he could very well rejoin us (Tuesday),” Hurdle said.

Harrison OK

Josh Harrison aggravated an ankle injury during a play at second base Sunday and isn't at 100 percent. He said at this point in the season he doesn't think anyone is.

“Same ankle that was sprained a couple months ago and same one that was rolled on a couple weeks ago,” said Harrison, whose .309 batting average ranks fifth in the National League. “It's fine when I play, but anytime you have a nagging injury, sometimes the wrong twist or something can reaggravate it. That's what we deal with as ballplayers. It's nothing that will keep me off the field.”

Marte holds his own in center

Going into Monday's game, Starling Marte had started 13 games in center field since McCutchen was hurt, going 16 for 47 (.340) with five doubles, a triple, a home run, six RBIs and 11 runs scored.

Veteran scout Gray dies at 91

Longtime scout Elmer Gray passed away Monday at age 91. Gray, who is listed in the Pirates' media guide as an associate scout, received the Pride of the Pirates award in 2008, his 58th season in baseball.

Gray began his career with the St. Louis Browns in 1951 and joined the Pirates in 1984 as scouting director. Under his watch, the Pirates drafted such notables as Barry Bonds, Jeff King and Moises Alou, and Gray's contributions had a notable impact on the championship teams of the 1990s.

“Everyone in the Pirates family is saddened by the news of Elmer's passing. He was a tremendous baseball man who was respected by all in the game for his more than 60 years of dedicated service to the sport,” team president Frank Coonelly said.

Minor leaguer suspended

MLB announced that Pirates minor league pitcher Michael Clemens was suspended 68 games without pay, effective immediately, for possession and use of human growth hormone. The Pirates drafted Clemens this year in the 17th round out of McNeese State. He was playing at rookie-level Bristol of the Appalachian League. He was 0-0 with a 1.00 ERA in 18 innings pitched (13 games) with three saves.

Odds and ends

Hurdle became the latest member of the Pirates to take the ALS ice bucket challenge. … Clint Barmes had his rehab transferred from Double-A to Triple-A Indianapolis and was scheduled to play seven innings Monday.

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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