Published May 12, 2011
PITTSBURGH – Andrew McCutchen got a day off — even before the rest of his Pittsburgh Pirates teammates were given one, too.
McCutchen's lack of hustle during a loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday earned him a spot on the bench for Thursday's game that was later postponed after the rain came in the top of the third inning with the Dodgers up 1-0.
No makeup date was announced. The rainout was the 22nd this season, surpassing the total from all of last season.
Manager Clint Hurdle opted to sit the promising 24-year-old for failing to run to first following a dropped third strike in the eighth inning of a 2-0 loss. McCutchen struck out swinging to lead off the inning and the ball squirted a few feet away from Rod Barajas, who had little trouble locating it and throwing to first for the out. McCutchen was still near the batter's box when the ball was thrown.
"I know our players clearly understand what's important to me and as we create an identity on who we are, what we are, what kind of team, there's certain things that need to be done," Hurdle said.
Giving maximum effort at all times chief among them. Hurdle and McCutchen spoke Thursday afternoon and Hurdle considers the matter closed.
"(McCutchen) understands and you can't look past it," he said. "You can't stick your head in the sand. We're a team."
Xavier Paul took over McCutchen's spot in center and batted leadoff, though Hurdle said McCutchen would have been available to pinch hit.
McCutchen will return to the lineup on Friday when the Pirates play in Milwaukee. His seven home runs lead the team.
McCutchen said he understood the decision, also saying "it's a lesson learned." If he was bothered by the call, it didn't show. He spent part of the pregame watching himself being interviewed by MLB TV talking about the team's steady if not spectacular start.
Among the highlights: McCutchen doing "The Carlton Dance" from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and teammate Joel Hanrahan donning the hat off the Pirates mascot and bobbing his head to mimic McCutchen's dreadlocks.
This isn't the first time this season Hurdle has sat a player for not giving maximum effort. Shortstop Ronny Cedeno missed a game last month after opting not to run out a grounder thinking it was a foul ball. The ball remained in play and Cedeno was thrown out.
The team received a bit of good news Thursday when injured pitcher Kevin Hart threw a simulated inning on the mound. It marked the first time he stepped on the rubber since having shoulder surgery last May to repair a torn labrum.
Hart said was pain-free after throwing 25 pitches.
"I think that was the first step," Hart said.
Hart hasn't appeared in the majors since 2009, when he went 1-8 with the Pirates after being traded from the Chicago Cubs. He struggled last spring while pitching for Triple-A Indianapolis before the injury was discovered.
There is no timetable for Hart's return.
Notes: The Dodgers are not scheduled to play in Pittsburgh again during the regular season. ... The game was called when the delay stretched to nearly 2½ hours. ... Neil Walker returned to the lineup for the Pirates after missing his first game of the season with flulike symptoms.