Pirates Notebook: McCutchen, Tabata to get rest
Friday, August 06, 2010
By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Andrew McCutchen could hardly believe the subject matter.

Days off here and there the rest of the year?

For him?

"Not at all," the Pirates' immovable center fielder said Thursday. "Bet if you ask [Pirates manager John Russell] that, he'll look at you like you're stupid."

Funny, but Russell was the one who brought it up.

With catcher Ryan Doumit set to come off the disabled list Saturday, the blueprint for him to play mostly in right field makes for a crowded outfield. So it seems logical that Lastings Milledge could move from right to left field once Doumit rejoins the Pirates and starts those outfield assignments.

That would allow Jose Tabata a day off or a day in center field, so McCutchen can rest.

Remember, too, that McCutchen -- after missing one game of the final 109 last year and one of the first 91 this season -- has been beaten up like a catcher lately. He missed seven games and parts of two others since July 18 due to a sprained shoulder and a fastball off his neck Tuesday.

"Absolutely," Russell said of the possibility of enacting such an outfield rotation. "Andrew plays so hard, you got to be careful there. Jose being young ... you just don't want to run them into the ground. They are young players, but it's a grind because of the way they play. They both play hard. They're both speed guys. They cover a lot of ground in the outfield. They're on the ground a lot on the slide. We'll monitor it."

Russell maintained that McCutchen's 2009 iron-man performance provided a precedent.

"As we get him going again, there will be days when we'll give him a day off just to make sure he's fresh rather than just pushing him all the time," Russell said. "Him fresh is extremely good. Not so fresh is still really good, but we don't want to run it out of him so he doesn't have anything left."

McCutchen, however, does not want to sit. Evidence of that came Wednesday afternoon, when he returned to the lineup hours after being felled by the fastball from Cincinnati's Mike Leake.

Of those days off, McCutchen added, "We'll see if that's true."

Talk about hot ...

The hottest Pirates hitter of late? The rookie Tabata, 23 for 62 with seven RBIs in the past 15 games, is batting .371 over that time.

"I try to hit .400," Tabata said, with a smile. "I feel more comfortable. My family. It's like it's the same baseball. I feel very comfortable about things now."

McCutchen said of Tabata, "You can tell he's confident now. It's starting to show."

One sign of consistency: Tabata has not been hitless in consecutive games in his 48 starts.

"I think he's gotten more acclimated," Russell said. "He's got a great approach at the plate. Will he hit .400 the rest of the year? I hope so. Him being on base is something we should see quite often."

Buried treasure

Fourth-round pick Nick Kingham, 18, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound right-hander from Las Vegas, is scheduled for a routine medical examination and then a contract signing this afternoon at PNC Park. His bonus is believed to be somewhere around the $600,000 given to pitcher Zack Dodson, a fourth-round pick last year.

Doumit's scheduled start in Class AAA Indianapolis' right field was rained out Thursday in Durham, N.C. He will participate in both games of a doubleheader tonight, playing right field and catcher.

The Pirates demoted recently reacquired shortstop Brian Bixler from Indianapolis to Class AA Altoona.
Chuck Finder: cfinder@post-gazette.com. Find more at PBC Blog.

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