Pirates Notebook: Hurdle Positive McCutchen Can Do This

He’s been ranked as one of the top center fielders in baseball. And rightfully so. Despite the club struggling with offense to start the 2012 season, Andrew McCutchen has been doing his share. The 25-year-old entered game action on Wednesday with a .333/.405/.394 line in 33 at-bats, with four runs, two doubles, an RBI, three walks and two stolen bases while batting third for the Pirates.

In March, McCutchen signed a six-year contract with the Pirates, ensuring he’ll be roaming center field at PNC Park in Pittsburgh until at least 2017. The Bucs also have a club option in 2018 on top of the $51.5 M deal.

When you think of the current Pirates, the first name that comes to mind is usually the All-Star McCutchen. He’s in National commercials, representing the black and gold as the face of the franchise.

But what comes along with being the guy, and a contract worth that amount of money comes a lot of pressure. However, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle has every bit of confidence in him.

“There’s absolutely nothing that makes me lack confidence in him,” Hurdle said. “There’s not a thing. There’s nothing you can bring to me that’s going to say that he can’t do this. There’s nothing. There’s nothing anybody can bring to me.”

“I just know the man. I think I have a real good understanding of the man, what he’s about. What direction he’s headed individually and organizationally. His commitment level to his family, to his team, to the people that he loves and cares about, to his passion — the game of baseball. This is the right man to have in play for us at the right time for all the right reasons.”

Hurdle’s Positive Outlook a Match for Young Club

The nine-game, 11-day road trip that the Pirates are currently on has been tough. In fact, the club’s April schedule was ranked as the hardest of any of the other teams in the Majors by Buster Olney of ESPN. After winning two-of-three from the Philadelphia Phillies in Pittsburgh, the Pirates were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers and lost two-of-three from the 2010 World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants.

The Pirates endured a five-game skid before wining against the Giants on Sunday afternoon 4-1. Pittsburgh’s starting pitching has been solid this season, posting a 2.78 team ERA prior to the win yesterday. Right-hander Kevin Correia allowed just one run during his six inning outing against San Francisco in the first road win. The bats, however, have been slow to start.

Their .188 team average is a Major League-low, along with their 18 runs scored over nine games so far this young season. The schedule doesn’t get any easier. The Pirates will face the NL West Division Champions Arizona Diamondbacks for a three-game set starting Monday. They return home to face the 2011 World Series Champions St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. The Colorado Rockies follow before ending the month against the Atlanta Braves.

One of Manager Clint Hurdle’s quotes from last year was that he knew when to be a coach, and when they needed a smack on the backside. Hurdle’s positive outlook seems to work well with the young ball club.

“It works better for everybody,” Hurdle said. “There’s nobody that’s breathing that can’t use some encouragement — especially when you work in the industry that we work in. Everybody’s life is challenging. Nobody wakes up and get’s straight A’s. Nobody wakes up and everything is laid out. There’s lay ups all over the place. There’s high-fives, there’s walk offs.”

“There’s going to be challenges. There’s going to be significant road blocks. And that being said, you’ve got to understand that delay is not denial. That failure is never a person, it’s an event. And find a way to move forward. More often than not, people give up, or quit, or stop trying and they have no idea how close they are to scratching success. The one thing that I will never, ever come short on is continuing to persevere, or continue to push forward, continue to give my best effort. The people of Pittsburgh deserves it, the fan base deserves it, players that I’m trying to coach up, they deserve it.”

Burnett to Make Triple-A Rehab Start

Right-hander A.J. Burnett will make his third rehab start today. This time, however, Burnett will be starting for Triple-A Indianapolis.

On Wednesday, Burnett struggled on the mound for High-A Bradenton. Burnett allowed eight runs (five earned) on six hits over 1.2 innings. He walked one and struck out four. The right-hander was pulled from his outing early in the second after throwing a 31 pitch frame.

Burnett threw 68 pitches in his first rehab start, and is expected to shoot for 80-85 on Monday. General Manager Neal Huntington said he prefered Burnett to reach the 100 pitch mark in the minors before rejoining the club, so there is a chance he will make one more rehab start before being reinstated from the disabled list.

Burnett continues to build up his arm strength and pitch count after starting the season on the 15-day disabled list due to right eye surgery. The 35-year-old was eligible to come off the DL on April 10.