4/24/2014 10:03 A.M. ET
McCutchen could move in lineup to boost RBIs
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Clint Hurdle was flabbergasted when Andrew McCutchen led the National League with 194 hits in 2012, yet could convert that into only 96 RBIs. The enigma was the same last season, when McCutchen hit well enough to earn NL MVP honors -- yet could drive in only 84 runs.
Add the fact that McCutchen drove in himself on 52 homers over those two seasons, and his few opportunities to bat with men in scoring position becomes even more apparent.
Hence, the Pirates manager admitted Wednesday, he has toyed with the idea of moving McCutchen from his familiar No. 3 spot in the lineup.
"Yeah, I've thought about it. And we've done it theoretically on paper, worked through all these different lineups," Hurdle said. "If certain things would work out, it could be an advantage [lowering McCutchen], but it's all hypothetical."
Rather than move McCutchen, Hurdle has moved the guy in front of him. Starling Marte has become a fixture (for now) at leadoff, but in this young season the Bucs have already tried five players in the two-hole, with Neil Walker the latest.
"We're trying to put some guys in front of him who have on-base histories to give him opportunities to maximize his at-bats," Hurdle said.
Through 21 games, McCutchen had found those run-producing chances even rarer than usual. Teams have avoided him in key situations, and he continues to lead the league with 18 walks.
In those 21 games, McCutchen has come to bat with a total of 21 men in scoring position. He has been walked five times in those situations. He has gotten to swing with 15 men in scoring position, and has driven in nine of them.
Cole not suspended, 'surprised' by skirmish
PITTSBURGH -- Four players -- two Pirates, two Brewers -- were handed suspensions on Tuesday by Major League Baseball for their roles in the on-field skirmish Sunday between the teams.
Gerrit Cole, the pitcher whose vocal reprimand of Carlos Gomez's running style lit the fuse fanned by others, stayed out of MLB's doghouse. That did not go down smoothly with some people, whose reaction went into the "How could the guy who started it all get off scot-free?" file.
Cole, while still repentant, begged to differ.
"By the time [Gomez] was done saying what he needed to say and I was done, we walked away -- and it escalated after that," Cole said Wednesday, while the suspensions of Gomez (three), Travis Snider (two) and Russell Martin (one) were pending appeals. Martin Maldonado opted to serve his five-game suspension.
"After we were done talking, he thought it was over, and I thought it was over as well," Cole went on. "I was surprised. Watching the replay later confirmed what I'd remembered -- walking away and not knowing what just happened."
The benches and bullpens had quickly spilled out, and in the resulting blob of bodies, Snider and Gomez clashed, and Maldonado leveled a blind punch on the Pirates outfielder.
"I don't want to sit here and not take blame," Cole said. "But neither do I want to say I went over there to try to incite a fight. That's not the position we were in: We were thin in the bullpen and I'm trying to go deep in the game, and I let my emotions get the best of me.
"I'm not going to dish blame on anybody. I did what I did, and I've got to wear it."
Cumpton to make start in Wandy's spot
PITTSBURGH -- Brandon Cumpton was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to start Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Reds, stepping into the slot left vacant when Wandy Rodriguez went on the disabled list.
The Pirates formally made the transaction Thursday morning, optioning right-hander Jared Hughes to Indianapolis to make room on the roster for Cumpton.
Cumpton brings a 2-0 record and 1.42 ERA from Indianapolis and is ranked the 12th-best prospect in the Pirates' system.
Catcher Russell Martin was a late scratch from Wednesday's lineup, but that may not have had anything to do with manager Clint Hurdle's preference that the veteran instead be behind the plate for Cumpton. Martin would not ordinarily play a night game and then the following afternoon.
"We're trying to strategically find spots for him to rest," said Hurdle, insisting he had posted Wednesday's original lineup too soon. "I got in a hurry, before I got with him. So it makes it look bad on the player."
However, Martin was not sure of being back in the lineup Thursday.
"I'll come in and look at the lineup -- then I'll know," said the catcher.
First number, last word
19-13: The Pirates' record, since the start of the 2013 season, when facing a left-handed starter, which they will do for only the second time this season Thursday afternoon, when Tony Cingrani goes for the Reds.
"I told him, 'I haven't seen a big man look that out of place but make it all work since the Fridge used to run in the backfield for the Bears.'" -- Manager Clint Hurdle, comparing Pedro Alvarez, when an infield shift turns him into a hybrid shortstop, to William 'Refrigerator' Perry, the onetime 400-pound lineman and occasional fullback.
• Travis Ishikawa, whom the Pirates had designated for assignment Saturday to make room for newly acquired Ike Davis, cleared waivers Wednesday and has elected to become a free agent.
• With gems on April 16 and 22, Johnny Cueto became the first Reds pitcher to three-hit the Bucs in back-to-back starts since Fred Toney in 1917. Toney would not be impressed: He did it in one day, handling both ends of a July 1 doubleheader.
• The Pirates beat Adam Wainwright (barely, 2-1) on April 6. Around that loss, Wainwright has gone 6-0 with an ERA of 0.84 -- taking into account four starts since and his last two of Spring Training.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.