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Pirates notebook: Andrew McCutchen chews on life as a DH

| Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, 2:18 p.m.
After hitting at a torrid pace in June and July, Andrew McCutchen has slumped in late summer.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
After hitting at a torrid pace in June and July, Andrew McCutchen has slumped in late summer.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen watches his solo home run during the fourth inning against the Tigers Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen watches his solo home run during the fourth inning against the Tigers Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at PNC Park.

DETROIT — Andrew McCutchen was the Pirates' designated hitter in Thursday's series finale against the Detroit Tigers. Freed from having to patrol center field, McCutchen faced a dugout dilemma.

Sunflower seeds or chewing gum?

“You're sitting around, you get a little bored and you've got to do something, so you grab some gum,” McCutchen said. “I'm not a big sunflower seed guy. I try to stay away from the gum, but if I do, I try to do the sugar-free … even though that aspartame probably isn't helping out my body.”

The potential long-term effects of artificial sweetener aside, being the DH for a day is a good thing for McCutchen's health.

“It's a day off for your legs from standing and running around in the outfield,” McCutchen said. “It's good to get one in like that to rest your legs, but I don't want to rest too much from hitting. It's not a tough decision.”

Starling Marte started in center field with Adam Frazier in left.

“It's good to a have a break from that,” McCutchen said of Comerica Park's roomy outfield.

The next three games will be played on artificial turf at Rogers Centre in Toronto. The plastic grass doesn't worry McCutchen, though.

“I don't care about the turf,” McCutchen said. “It's all about the ballpark. It's a hitters' ballpark. That's cool. I'm ready for that.”

McCutchen was a DH once in 2011, once in 2013, and three times in 2015. Last season, when he went through the worst offensive slump of his career, McCutchen was not used as a DH in any of the Pirates' 20 interleague games.

Manager Clint Hurdle couldn't recall an instance when a player resisted being used as the DH, though some have asked him to explain his decision.

“I've been asked why, and I've explained why, and then we were good to go after that,” Hurdle said. “I don't think Andrew had much experience doing it before we started experimented doing it with him. I think it's something he feels comfortable doing now.”

McCutchen didn't spend his down time in the bottom of innings kicking back on the bench. The batting cage and stationary bike beckoned.

“You'll get cold if you just sit on the bench for 20 or 30 minutes until you get your next at-bat,” he said. “It's about keeping your legs stretched and fresh between innings.”

Marinez claimed

Reliever Jhan Marinez was claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers. He was designated for assignment Saturday when the Pirates acquired George Kontos.

Outfielder Danny Ortiz, who was DFA'd when Sean Rodriguez was acquired, cleared waivers and returned to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Quick visit

With a night game followed by a day game, the Pirates didn't have to bother unpacking their suitcases for the series at Comerica Park. The team spent less than 48 hours in the Motor City and jetted off to Toronto shortly after Thursday's game.

“I'm probably the only one in the clubhouse who was disappointed we're not spending any more time in Detroit,” said Hurdle, who was born in Michigan and grew up a Tigers fan.

Southpaw saves

Felipe Rivero and Tony Watson each notched 10 saves, the first time in franchise history (since saves became an official stat in 1969) that two left-handers have each reached that mark in the same season.

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, only three other MLB teams can claim a pair of 10-save lefties: the 1989 New York Yankees (Dave Righetti, 25 saves; Lee Guetterman, 13); the 1990 Chicago Cubs (Mitch Williams, 16; Paul Assenmacher, 10); and the 2000 Atlanta Braves (John Rocker, 24; Mike Remlinger, 12).

Minor matters

Five players from Short-Season Single-A West Virginia were named to the New York-Penn League midseason All-Star team. C Deon Stafford, LHP Ike Schlabach, RHP Adam Oller, 2B Tristan Gray and RF Bligh Madris will play in the game Tuesday in Troy, N.Y.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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