McCutchen benched for lack of effort
Pirates first-year manager Clint Hurdle made it clear Thursday that a lack of effort will not seep into his clubhouse.
"I think there are certain things," he said, "that are non-negotiable."
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen was benched for Thursday night's series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers after failing to run out a play in a 2-0 loss Wednesday night.
"It's the game of baseball, and it needs to be played the right way," McCutchen said. "It's not the way I play ball. I know that's not the type of person I am."
With the Pirates trailing, 2-0, McCutchen struck out swinging to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning, but the ball kicked away from Dodgers catcher Rod Barajas. As McCutchen slammed his bat in frustration — the pitch bounced in front of home plate to cap his 0-for-4 night — Barajas tossed to first base for the easy out.
"I let my emotions get the best of me," McCutchen said. "I was frustrated at the time and not focused on the game and the ball in the dirt and (there are) two strikes and I needed to run to first base."
It didn't matter that McCutchen's lack of hustle was more likely a product of frustration than complacency. The team's home run leader was replaced by Xavier Paul in center field and the leadoff spot last night.
"It's a manager's decision," Hurdle said. "I know our players clearly understand what's important to me. As we create an identity — who we are, what we are and what kind of team we are — there are certain things that need to be done."
Hurdle also sat Ronny Cedeno last month for failing to run out a grounder that the shortstop said he thought was foul. Hurdle said physical errors are part of the game, but a lack of hustle — by a star center fielder or a light-hitting middle infielder — is intolerable regardless of the excuse.
"You can't look past it," Hurdle said. "You can't stick your head in the sand. We're a team."
The lack of hustle was out of character for McCutchen, a fan favorite for his aggressive style of play.
"I believe strongly (in all-out hustle), and I know our men do, too," Hurdle said. "Sometimes they just need help with their direction."