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Pirates All 40: Andrew McCutchen Ready to Continue Reunion Tour

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Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

This is one in a series of stories breaking down members of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 40-man roster.

One of the overarching stories of the 2023 season for the Pittsburgh Pirates was the return of Andrew McCutchen. The reunion worked so well that the sides will run it back.

McCutchen signed a one-year, $5-million contract as a free agent last January in a stunning move. The Pirates had traded McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants in 2018 and he also made stops with the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers before coming back to Pittsburgh.

The 37-year-old McCutchen is no longer the caliber of player who won the National League MVP award in 2013 and made five straight All-Star Game appearances with the Pirates from 2011-15. However, he still proved to be productive over 112 games last season as he batted .256/.378/.397 with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases.

Though McCutchen’s season ended prematurely when he sustained a partially torn left Achilles while legging out a double on Sept. 4 against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Pirates saw enough to bring him back for 2024 on the same contract terms.

McCutchen hit at least 10 homers for the 15th straight season, which is the longest active streak among major-league players.

His 75 walks also tied Jack Suwinski for the team lead as McCutchen provided some much-needed plate discipline to a team that had been lacking in that department in recent seasons. McCutchen’s 15.9 walk percentage was in the 99th percentile among major-league hitters and his 18.6 chase rate finished in the 95th percentile.

McCutchen also showed he was still an above-average runner, finishing in the 77th percentile with a 28.4 sprint speed. The Pirates were also able to keep McCutchen’s legs fresh by playing him exclusively as a designated hitter after May 30 because of elbow issues.

McCutchen missed 10 days with right elbow inflammation from July 6-15. He wound up making 97 starts as DH during the season and just seven in right field.

McCutchen made an impact immediately, drawing three walks on opening day to lead the Pirates over the Reds in Cincinnati. He also drew his 1,000th career walk on May 7 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

However, McCutchen’s biggest moment came June 11 at PNC Park when he collected his 2,000th career hit by singling off the New York Mets’ Carlos Carrasco. It was the first time a player got his 2,000th hit in a Pirates’ uniform since Willie Stargell in 1978.

McCutchen also hit his 299th home run on Aug. 22 off the St. Louis Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright but did not reach No. 300 before sustaining his season-ending injury.

McCutchen had a .462 on-base percentage in June, second best in big leagues behind the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani’s .492. McCutchen also had a .319 batting average and .920 OPS in 21 games during the month.

Feeling the effects of his elbow injury, McCutchen had an awful July. He went 0 for 17 from July 1-5 before being placed on the IL. McCutchen finished the month with a .115 average and no RBIs in 15 games.

However, McCutchen bounced back to have his second 20-game on-base streak of the season from July 22-Aug. 19. He also doubled twice against the Brewers on Sept. 4 before his season ended abruptly.

McCutchen says his Achilles is fully recovered and he will have no limitations when spring training begins next month. While the Pirates are hopeful McCutchen can play some in the outfield this upcoming season, it seems likely that most of his playing time will be as the DH.

John Perrotto is a columnist for Pittsburgh Baseball Now and has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates and MLB since 1988.

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