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Pirates not concerned with Andrew McCutchen’s early struggles

Apr 16, 2011, 6:23 PM EDT

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Andrew McCutchen was batting just 9-for-41 (.220) over the first 11 games of the season, all of the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle moved him back to the leadoff spot last night against the Reds in an effort to shake things up, but McCutchen went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.

Still, Hurdle tells Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com that he was encouraged with what he saw from his talented young center fielder.

“I thought he was tracking the ball better,” Hurdle said. “He didn’t get too big. They did pitch him pretty effectively, as well. I’m hoping that will spark him a little bit. I think it will.”

“It’s funny how certain things will spark someone,” Hurdle said. “If nothing else, the ire of going 0-for-5 with four punchouts, that can light a fuse, too. He’s got a lot of professional pride, and I expect this thing to turn around sooner rather than later.”

McCutchen has been just as patient as ever in a small sample size so far this season (6/8 K/BB ratio), but his batting average on balls in play has been way down (.194) compared to his career average (.313). Some of this is bad luck, sure, but McCutchen has also hit less line drives and more fly balls (and infield fly balls), potentially because he was trying to do too much as a run producer. Hopefully putting him back in the leadoff spot will get him back to what makes him such a dynamic player.

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