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Nats coach sees special talent in McCutchen

| Monday, Aug. 3, 2009

Throughout his young career, Andrew McCutchen has drawn many comparisons to former all-star center fielder Marquis Grissom.

Both have great speed, decent power, tremendous defensive skills and roughly the same physical build.

"I appreciate that," Grissom said. "But he's looking ahead of me as a player."

Grissom, who enjoyed a very good 16-year major-league career, is the first-base coach for the Washington Nationals. He witnessed McCutchen hit three home runs Saturday night, becoming the first Pirates' leadoff hitter in 51 years to accomplish the feat (Roman Mejias was the last one to do it).

"For me as a coach, it's fun to watch him," Grissom said. "You can look at a player and tell that he's going to be one of those guys that changes the game. He has that capability. He's going to impact the game."

Grissom, a two-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, is one of the few players to steal 70 bases in a season, yet still have enough power to hit 20 or more home runs five times.

Said McCutchen, "I watched him a little bit growing up, and I know a lot of people compare me to him."

Grissom said McCutchen possesses more power at an early age than he did. Grissom (5-11, 195) hit six home runs in his first major-league season and had a career-high 23 in 1996.

McCutchen, a rookie, has only six home runs in the big leagues and hit 43 in 1,967 minor-league at-bats. But Grissom thinks the 5-foot-11, 175-pound McCutchen could mature into a home-run hitter.

"I'm talking about the way the ball jumps off his bat," Grissom said. "The compact swing. I'm not saying he's going to hit 30 this year, but as soon as he figures it out and continues to play every day, he has a chance to be an outstanding player."

On Saturday, McCutchen became only the 10th player in major-league history to have three or fewer career home runs prior to hitting three in a game.

McCutchen went 4-for-5 with four runs scored and six RBI in what, by some standards, was the best game by a rookie in 35 years. Fred Lynn in 1975 was the last rookie to equal those numbers while hitting three home runs in a game.

McCutchen, who has nine stolen bases, may never approach Grissom's stolen-base totals — he had 76 in 1991 and 78 in 1992. But Grissom said the comparisons don't do McCutchen justice.

"He's going to be a tremendous player," Grissom said. "He's a kid that wants to continue and grow. Just like Lastings (Milledge). They want to get it. They want to learn. They want to become better players. And they haven't touched the surface yet.

"This is like a rookie year. I'm looking at what's next year and the year after that (for McCutchen). Last night was a sneak preview."

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