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McCutchen makes his move

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CLEARWATER, Fla. — Daniel McCutchen faced what it arguably the best lineup in the NL, and turned in a pretty good start in today’s 4-2 loss to the Phillies. McCutchen worked 5 1/3 innings and gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits. He walked two, struck out three and hit one batter.

“My fastball command was pretty bad, but luckily I had my slider,” McCutchen said. “Five weeks ago, I came into camp wondering if I was going to find my breaking ball. Today, it was my best pitch. From where I was a month ago, I think I’ve taken a big step forward.”

McCutchen expects his fastball to improve over the next couple of weeks as his arm gains strength. His first two outings this spring came in relief, so he’s probably still not quite where he’d like to be.

Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Placido Polanco played the first three innings. Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino came out after four.

“I didn’t breeze through the lineup,” McCutchen said. “From my first inning to the last, it was a battle. But I stayed within myself and got some outs.”

– McCutchen is flying to Philly tonight with the team, but expects to return after that to Florida to pitch in a minor league game. He’ll make his first start April 11 in Arizona. “I’ve got a long 10 days to work to have my good stuff for when it matters,” he said. “I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m not going to sit here and get comfortable in my position. I know I have to battle every day to stay here (in the majors). Today was a good start for me.”

– Right-hander Hayden Penn made his Pirates’ debut, pitching 1 2/3 innings. He allowed two hits and struck out two. Penn also threw two days ago in a minor league game. “The velocity’s there, like we thought,” manager John Russell said. “He has a nice, little two-seamer. When he catches his curveball, it runs pretty good.”

– Octavio Dotel tossed one inning, and allowed a first-pitch, leadoff homer to Dewayne Wise.

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