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Give him time

My friend and fellow scribe John Perrotto, who has covered nearly two dozen spring training camps, says without hesitation that Andrew McCutchen is the Pirates’ most electrifying prospect since Barry Bonds took the money and ran. From what I’ve seen from McCutchen this spring — the sweet swing, the dynamite glovework, keen batting eye, speed, power — I’ve got to agree.

So why is McCutchen not going to be on the Opening Day roster?

He needs more time in the minors, according to general manager Dave Littlefield. And, again, I agree.

McCutchen’s resume shows just 192 games played in the minors — only 20 of them at Class AA Altoona. He has 741 career at-bats, all but 78 of them coming in rookie ball or Class A. Earlier this spring, McCutchen said the jump up to Altoona was good because he was able to face better pitchers — pitchers with more guile, to be sure, but also guys who are around the strike zone more consistently. Imagine what McCutchen will learn when he gets to spend an entire season facing better pitching.

If the Pirates were gonna be legit division-title contenders this season, it would make sense to have a guy with McCutchen’s skills on the roster. But to force him to languish as a bench player for all of what likely will be a 75-win summer would be counterproductive. No need to start McCutchen’s clock ticking toward arbitration and — sigh — free agency any sooner than you have to.

The only question now is, will McCutchen start this season at Altoona or Triple-A Indianapolis? In February, it seemed obvious that he was ticketed for Altoona. Now, I would not be surprised to see McCutchen as Indy’s outfield in April.

Either way, he’ll be at PNC Park come September. And for a long, long time after that.

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