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McCutchen battles the Monster

FORT MYERS, Fla. — In Friday’s 7-4 triumph against the Red Sox, Andrew McCutchen hit two of the most majestic doubles you’ll ever see. In any other park, they would’ve been homers. In the third inning, McCutchen’s blast caromed about 3 feet from the top of the Green Monster in left field — which, at 43 feet high, is 6 feet taller than its namesake at Fenway Park. As Jordy Mercer scored from second base, McCutchen trudged to second base, perhaps in disbelief that the ball still was in play. “I’ve got to hit it a little harder next time,” McCutchen said. “But I’ll take a double.”

In the fifth, McCutchen hit a liner that smacked off the Monster’s screen for another RBI double. That wrapped up a 3-for-3 night for McCutchen, who’s batting .455 in four spring games. “He’s hit me his whole career, minor leagues and (spring training),” said Red Sox righty Clay Buckholz, who served up McCutchen’s first two hits tonight. “He’s just a good, quality player. That’s why they signed him to the contract he just signed.”

»»» Prior to McCutchen’s blast, Mercer was nicked on the back of his right hand, just above the wrist, by a pitch. At first, it didn’t look good — Mercer took a step toward first base, then stopped and waited for the trainer to check him out. However, Mercer remained in the game and went back to second base in the bottom of the inning.

»»» Right-hander Shairon Martis had a solid night’s work: two innings, two hits, one strikeout and one hit batter. “Pretty good outing,” Martis said. “I’m very happy with it. It was a good lineup. They’re all good hitters, so I challenged them.” Martis could make the Pirates’ bullpen, but will be in the starting rotation if he ends up at either Triple-A Indianapolis or Double-A Altoona.

“He’s in the mix (for bullpen),” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We wanted to stretch him out more, but that landscape changed when we acquired Burnett. We’re keeping him involved. We like the arm. Our scouts have been on him for a while. He kept the ball down, his pace was quick. He did paint himself into some corners with three-ball counts, but in all three he was able to come back and get the hitter.”

He signed as a minor league free agent in November. “I changed my mechanics last year and I’m still working on it,” Martis said. “When I work from the stretch, I’m trying to take a little bit of a shorter step. Quicker to the plate. My arm slot is still the same. It will help me hold runners better and make me quicker to home plate.”

Martis is a native of Curacao, and played there this offseason for the Dutch national team. He also played winter ball in Venezuela. “That’s a lot of pitching,” Martis said with a laugh. “I still feel strong. I had, like, a month off. I kept working out in Curacao. So it wasn’t like I was totally at rest.”

»»» Jose Tabata went 2 for 4, both RBI doubles. Clint Barmes was 2 for 4 and is batting .500 through four games. Garrett Jones had an RBI single. Eric Fryer ignited the three-run fifth inning with a leadoff bunt single. The Pirates got 10 hits — they have amassed at least 10 hits in each of their past five Grapefruit League games. “We had a number of guys barrel up some balls tonight,” Hurdle said. “It’s a good sign. We were challenged last year offensively. Guys are very much aware of the need to connect the dots from the bottom to the top of the lineup, to take better ownership of their at-bats. So far, we’re doing that.”

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