McCutchen has room to grow



DALLAS — Andrew McCutchen had a breakout season in 2011 and earned an All-Star berth. But, in reality, is was only a breakout half-season. Over his first 88 games last season, McCutchen batted .291 with an .894 OPS and 15 stolen bases. Over his final 70 games, McCutchen hit .216 with a .722 OPS and five steals.

“Andrew’s got opportunities for growth in a number of different places,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said this afternoon, during a confab with reporters at the winter meetings. Hurdle confirmed what was clear to most observers: McCutchen started trying to do too much at the plate in the second half of the season, and would up doing too little. “He realized how risk and reward plays out in a swing,” Hurdle said. “You can spike some numbers and there might be some penalty in some other numbers.”

»»» Pedro Alvarez has been working with a personal trainer in Los Angeles after turning down the Pirates’ request that he play winter ball. Hurdle supports Alvarez’s decision. “I think he gets better every day he’s away. He needed some time to get away. I know there was a lot of conversation about what he should do; everybody’s got an opinion. But I think once he made a decision, got away and put down those emotional bags he’d been carrying all season, he’s feeling better about himself and he’s working hard. Everything’s in a better place. Everything is very positive.”

»»» Hurdle said Josh Harrison “will get an extended look in spring training” at shortstop. Harrison, who got a lot of playing time at third base while Alvarez was injured, began working out at short a few weeks ago in Instructional League.

»»» I asked Hurdle if he’d be comfortable going into the season with Alex Presley as the starting left fielder. “As we sit here today, Alex has done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Hurdle said. “He spent 10 days in Instructional League working on his basestealing and bunting, some small ball-type things. Everybody’s got their projection where you want power on the corners. But sometimes those options aren’t available. If we’ve got to recreate it with an outfield of Presley, McCutchen and (Jose) Tabata, so be it. It’s not all about homers. We’ve got many more things to worry about than power right now. You can score runs a number of different ways.”

»»» Catcher Michael McKenry also spent time this offseason — five days in Florida and five days recently in Pittsburgh — working one-on-one in the batting cage with Hurdle. McKenry is slated to return to Pittsburgh next week for more tutelage. “We spend an hour and a half each day, trying to fine-tune some things to get him in a better position to hit,” Hurdle said. “Time will tell on that. It’s all cage work right now, with some velocity and spin added as we go along. He’s been very receptive. It looks a little bit different now (but) not something you’re going to say, ‘Wow! What did you do?’ But we’re trying to get him more comfortable.”

»»» Hurdle said he hasn’t given any thought to the new rules regarding instant replay. “I’m good with what they decide. I just work here. I can conform and adjust.”