PITTSBURGH – On the eve of what is expected to be his 2,000th career major-league career, Andrew McCutchen confirmed he wants to keep adding to that total beyond this season.
The 36-year-old Pittsburgh Pirates designated hitter told Pittsburgh Baseball Now that he plans to play again in 2024 following a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Friday night at PNC Park.
McCutchen is likely to play in game No. 2,000 on Saturday night when the Pirates again host the Chicago Cubs.
Two thousand games. Allow that number to rattle around in your brain for a moment.
While it doesn’t seem like it, McCutchen made his major-league debut more than 14 years ago. He was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on June 4, 2009, and was placed at the top of the Pirates’ batting order by manager John Russell for that afternoon’s game against the New York Mets at PNC Park.
The arrival of McCutchen had been long anticipated since he was selected in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft by the Pirates.
McCutchen reached Triple-A Indianapolis by 2008, spending the whole season there and hitting .283/.372/.398 with nine home runs and 34 stolen bases in 135 games.
Though many fans and media members – including me – clamored for McCutchen to make the opening-day roster, the Pirates sent him back to Indianapolis. Ostensibly the move was made for McCutchen to get more development time but delaying the start of his arbitration clock also had plenty to do with that decision.
McCutchen’s call to the majors came right on the heels of a very unpopular move by general manager Neal Huntington. The Pirates traded center fielder Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves for a three-player package the day before McCutchen’s debut.
McLouth was the Pirates’ most popular player and was coming off a season in which he won a Gold Glove, led the National League in doubles and was selected to his first All-Star Game.
Rather than have McLouth switch positions, Huntington decided to sell high. The strategy proved prudent as McLouth never again had a season like 2008.
McCutchen quickly made Pirates’ fans get over any anger caused by McLouth being dealt when he grounded a single up the middle in his first at-bat against Mike Pelfrey. McCutchen wound up going 2 for 4 with three runs scored and a walk to help the Pirates to an 11-6 victory.
Some of the memories have faded from that afternoon. However, my most vivid one was of McCutchen walking into the clubhouse about two hours prior to the game after taking a predawn flight from Indianapolis.
McCutchen walked in, shook some of his teammates’ hands and went to his locker to change into his uniform. There was no fuss or commotion. McCutchen was so cool and collected that it seemed he had already been in the big leagues for 15 years.
McCutchen was the same way following the game when he spoke with reporters. He wasn’t at all surprised by his impressive debut. He said he expected it and every media member crowded around his locker certainly believed it.
Fifteen years and 1,999 games later, McCutchen’s confidence and coolness has never wavered. It’s a nice bit of continuity in an ever-changing world.
And it’s even nicer to know that McCutchen will play at least one more year.