PITTSBURGH- When the rumors started during the winter after the 2022 season of Andrew McCutchen coming back to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the city started buzzing again.
On Jan. 20, 2023, the Pirates finally got the deal done to bring McCutchen back to Pittsburgh.
Since then, McCutchen has registered 49 hits in ’23 and is three hits away from 2,000 in his career. If/when McCutchen registers his 2,000th hit, he would become the 289th player in the major leagues to do so.
Prior to the Pirates’ game on Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals, manager Derek Shelton spoke with the Pittsburgh media.
One of the many marvels with McCutchen has got to be his maintaining a high level of play, despite being 36 years old, and playing well over 1,900 games in his major league career.
“He’s in unbelievable shape for his age,” said Shelton on McCutchen’s ability to take care of his body. “When he’s played in the outfield, we’ve seen still the bursts of speed in his first step. I think it’s a credit to how he takes care of his body.”
One of the many possibilities for McCutchen maintaining a high level of play could be his approach at the plate and how he uses his legs as a solid base.
“He looks like he’s in a more stable position,” said Shelton. “Not having been around him, but just seeing him in the division last year, I wouldn’t know why, but his set-up is solid all the time, and the hitting coach in me will tell you that the foundation of your swing is built on your feet being grounded. It’s like when you build a house, you build the foundation first and move upward.”
“When you’re stable in your lower half, and you’re pushing yourself into the ground, you’re going to be in a good spot. And he’s been in a good spot since he came into camp. I can’t go back to last year because I don’t know what he was doing or how he was doing it. But this year, and I think it’s why you very rarely see him off-balance.”
Other than the on-field performance, McCutchen offers a veteran presence in the clubhouse that is crucial for any team to have success.
“He does privately extremely well,” said Shelton. “That’s what good leaders do; they do it without being noticed. Sometimes I have to be told that it’s happened. The thing I really like about him is he is the same dude every day, and he’s the same dude in the dugout. Whether he feels like he got two pitchers called on him that weren’t strikes or if he hit a homer, he’s the same cat. That’s really important for a young group because you see our young players at times frustrated.”
“It’s really easy when you look at, you know, especially him and Reynolds, your best players, that they stay pretty calm the entire time. The best teaching moment is consistency. When our young players see that, it’s really easy to realize when we’re having conversations about why you should do that, that we have a guy that does it every day.”
Eventually, the conversation shifted to McCutchen’s milestones and Shelton’s thoughts on the potential letdown the game after McCutchen reaches that 2,000-hit mark.
“It will matter when it happens. The one thing with Cutch is monitoring when we play him because of what our schedule is. But of all the guys I’ve been around, he is the least I’ve ever been worried about with a milestone coming up because of the way he handles things. He does not change. From talking to the people that were here when he was here the first time, he’s the same guy. He’s a joy to be around. He’s very easy. So, yeah, I don’t I don’t expect there’ll be any peaks or valleys with it at all.”