PITTSBURGH- The Pittsburgh Pirates are off to one of their best starts in recent memory after going to 18-8 Thursday afternoon by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-2 at PNC Park.
One of the many reasons for the Pirates’ hot start is an unusual trend from veteran star Andrew McCutchen.
McCutchen historically is a slow starter and starts to pick things up as soon as the months get hotter, with a career slash line of .243/.340/.409 with an OPS of .749 in April.
Fast forward to 2023, and McCutchen is slashing .266/.348/.506 with an OPS of .854 in April.
I had the pleasure to sit down with McCutchen and discuss his quick start to the season.
“I hit a lot more this offseason,” said McCutchen. “I didn’t take much time off when it came to swinging the bat. I started hitting more in the cage to try to bear down my approach and get my body firing in the right way. I started using all of the tools and things that are out now just to try and get myself back to being more consistent and be a better hitter than I’ve been in the past years.”
With the way things are going for the Pirates in their very young clubhouse, you can say that the “vibes” are immaculate, and spirits seem to be high in a relatively young locker room.
One of the main factors for the high vibes and spirits has got to be the veteran presence that the Pirates brought into the clubhouse with guys like Rich Hill, Carlos Santana, and, yes, McCutchen.
McCutchen spoke about what it was like to be one of those veteran presences in the clubhouse and sharing the wisdom that was once shared with him as a young Pirate.
“It’s good because this team isn’t that far removed from playoff baseball. We have several people in the clubhouse that have experienced playoff baseball. For me, specifically what it feels like here, to be able to instill that and tell these guys we’re a good ball club is special. Being able to hear that from me as opposed to someone on TV saying it makes a difference, and it cuts a little deeper in a positive way. It’s beneficial to lead and to also be a presence in the clubhouse and bring some positivity here.”
Along with the veteran presence in the Pirates clubhouse, you also have to account for the youngsters playing a big role in their recent winning ways.
You have guys like Rodolfo Castro stepping up, Ji-Hwan Bae stealing bags, Jack Suwinski showing progress, and even the relatively young pitching staff starting to mature.
As someone who was once classified as a young leader on a Pirates ball club, I was interested to get McCutchen’s thoughts on what he’s seen from the young guys stepping up.
“When you’re a club that loses, you’re able to rebuild and able to draft high and draft prospects with those higher picks. You hope that with all of those moves you made over the years will allow you to see the fruits of your labor in the big leagues. It’s nice to see a lot of these guys here with some homegrown talent and some via trade, like Bryan Reynolds, who was a part of my trade. It’s nice to be able to see these guys come in here and excel. The great thing about it is these guys haven’t even stepped into what they are capable of doing.”
McCutchen continued to say that a lot of the guys in the minors are about to come up and that most of them aren’t just going to come up and be space fillers, but be guys who can contribute in a positive way.
I think if you would’ve asked me what the Pirates’ record would be 26 games into the season, I wouldn’t have said 18-8. Maybe this front office’s plan is starting to come to the forefront.
All I know is this ride has been a fun one in the city, and kudos need to be paid to the front office for bringing in a guy like Andrew McCutchen to turn the tide on the last three miserable years in Pittsburgh.