Without McCutchen, Pirates lineup adjusts
Center fielder's shoulder joint feels better, but needs rest
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates center fielder and leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen was not in the lineup against the Brewers on Monday and remains day-to-day after suffering a mild sprain of his right AC joint Sunday.
McCutchen hurt the shoulder making a diving catch on a fly ball by the Astros' Pedro Feliz in the eighth inning of the 9-0 win.
"It feels better, feels a little better," McCutchen said. "Still tender, still a little sore, but I'm able to move it around and stuff. Still a little tender, and just got to give it some time."
Jose Tabata led off and made his first Major League start in center, Lastings Milledge batted third and moved to left, and Ryan Church hit seventh and started in right.
Pirates manager John Russell said the team will monitor the situation every day, noting that it's possible McCutchen could come in Tuesday and take batting practice. It all depends on the soreness in McCutchen's shoulder, which the team hopes will subside in the coming days and not be a lingering issue. All tests have come back negative.
"Having Jose here gives us a very good center-field option," Russell said. "He's played a lot of center field. He covers a lot of ground, so we feel like he can step in and do a nice job for us. Our bench, at this point, they'll have to help pick us up a little bit. But Church has been swinging the bat better of late, so hopefully we won't miss a lot.
"You can't replace Andrew, obviously, but we've been doing some pretty good things lately, and hopefully the guys will rally behind each other, and we'll continue to do that."
Depending on how much time McCutchen misses, the view from the dugout for an entire game may take some getting used to. Since his Major League debut on June 4, 2009, McCutchen had missed just two games prior to Monday. The 198 games he has played since putting on a Pirates uniform is more than any Major League outfielder during that span.
"I just want to go out there. I want to be out with the team, helping them, but there's nothing you can do about that," McCutchen said. "All you can do is just handle what's in front of you. Everything else is pretty much inevitable, so I'll just go out and do what I can to still help the team. I can watch the game and still help the team as well -- things I can be able to watch. I can see things that people may not be able to see, because they're playing defense. So something like that."
Cedeno's breakout injects fun into roster
PITTSBURGH -- Ronny Cedeno's new approach is simple -- have fun.
"I don't want to try to do too much; that's what I did before: try to do too much and try to chase some pitches or whatever," Cedeno said. "But now I'm trying to be relaxed, enjoy the game. That's what John Russell said: Enjoy the game. Go play hard and compete with the same energy we've been playing with the past two days."
Cedeno's breakout the past two games may have been the biggest surprise in a series filled with them. The Pirates notched 17 hits Saturday and 19 Sunday -- the first time they have had consecutive games with 17 or more hits since May 29-30, 2006 -- with Cedeno's six leading the way. The No. 8 hitter went 4-for-4 Sunday with three doubles.
Prior to the All-Star break, Cedeno's starting job at shortstop appeared to be in jeopardy, as Bobby Crosby saw the majority of playing time in late June, and the pair split duties for much of July. But Cedeno has started every game since the break, responding to the challenge set forth by Russell to be more consistent. That resonated with the entire lineup, as every starting position player recorded at least one hit on Saturday and Sunday.
"It's very fun," the 27-year-old Cedeno said. "That's very fun, because that's what we're looking for: trying to get some fun out here."
Cautiously optimistic, Russell has seen a renewed sense of confidence in his young club and believes the players are starting to feed off each other.
"I think they proved to themselves they are possible of doing some good things and scoring some runs and getting some extra-base hits," Russell said. "It's something they need to experience. They know they can do it now. Again, it doesn't mean we're going to go out every game and get seven or eight doubles and 20 hits, but they know what they're capable of doing. And each time we have situations like that, where we start to score some runs, it's only going to add to their experience and continue to jell those guys a little bit. So it's a good building stone for them and [we're] just kind of waiting for that day. It was really good we got two in a row."
Lastings Milledge, who has had four multihit games during a modest six-game hitting streak, thinks the outbreak has been contagious, with players rising to the challenge of more RBI opportunities across the board.
"We've just been swinging the bats good, just been playing good ball," Milledge said. "We're not going to get caught up in trying to score 8,000 runs. We're trying to play fundamental baseball. So if it comes out to we score seven, eight or nine runs, that's what it is. We're just trying to play fundamental baseball."
Bucs' urban garden project to get push
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates and Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl will hold a news conference Tuesday morning at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA to announce the details of a proposal competing for a $200,000 grant from Pepsi. The initiative would give youths the tools and support to cultivate an urban garden in Homewood.
Competing against 14 other Major League teams to receive the grant -- part of the Pepsi Refresh Project -- the Pirates will try to build off Ravenstahl's Green Up program, which has cultivated vacant lots into green spaces and urban gardens.
The Pirates, who have partnered with the city and the Student Conservation Association, would grow fruit and vegetables in the garden and donate them to the hungry and nonprofit organizations, including youths in programs at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA.
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen, Pirates president Frank Coonelly and Pepsi's Becky Winters will join Ravenstahl at the news conference, which starts at 11 a.m.
Pirates manager John Russell said Ryan Doumit will remain the club's everyday starting catcher, with newcomer Erik Kratz being a valuable asset against left-handers, based on his Minor League success. "For some reason I guess the word 'platoon' got in there, which [general manager] Neal [Huntington] and I never said 'platoon,' " Russell said. ... Three of Doumit's eight home runs this season have been against the Brewers. ... Gorkys Hernandez went 0-for-4 for Double-A Altoona on Sunday, snapping his 16-game hitting streak. ... The Pirates' last back-to-back games with 17 or more hits came against the Brewers at PNC Park. ... The Pirates are 4-0 at PNC Park with Jeff Karstens on the hill.
Matt Fortuna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.