6/28/2014 9:46 P.M. ET
Likely All-Star McCutchen keeps improving
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen, already in a good position to land a spot in the National League's starting All-Star outfield, is in the stretch of a hot June that could make him the top vote-getter among the league's outfielders.
In the penultimate voting update, McCutchen was running second, merely about 7,000 votes behind the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig.
McCutchen keeps improving his platform daily. On Saturday, his leadoff double in the fourth inning led to two runs. That was his 20th extra-base hit of June -- the best monthly output by a Pirates player since April 2008, when Nate McLouth had 19.
That's just a snapshot of the June he is having. He leads the league this month in hits (36), RBIs (25), total bases (72) and extra-base hits (20).
Will he also lead in votes when polls close, on Thursday?
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15 on FOX.
All-Star voters tend to focus on offense, of which McCutchen obviously has plenty. But especially at his position, center field, defense should also be considered.
His manager is among those convinced that McCutchen now is a far superior defensive player than he was even in 2012, when he was awarded a Gold Glove.
"I do think he's better," Clint Hurdle said. "Initial breaks are better, routes have continued to improve and the throwing arm continues to show up improved. Not just the accuracy, but the strength."
Frieri excited for fresh start with Pirates
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle gave Ernesto Frieri his characteristically boisterous greeting and immediately told his newest reliever, whose baggage hopefully did not include his Anaheim struggles, "Everything that happened in April, May, June -- dig a hole, put it in there, cover it up and let's go. You've got a brand new chalkboard. You're a Pirate."
To be correct, as Pittsburgh donned Negro League uniforms on Saturday as part of its Heritage Week Celebration, Hurdle should have told Frieri, "You're a Crawford today. But you'll be a Pirate tomorrow."
But the manager made his point: Frieri's 6.39 ERA and eight homers allowed in 31 innings were not part of the deal when the Pirates acquired him for Jason Grilli on Friday.
Frieri, a 28-year-old native of Colombia, sees it the same way.
"Maybe this is going to be good for me. I was struggling a bit over there, but starting everything new from today, I'm positive this will be good for me," said Frieri, enthusiastic if a little worn out from a morning travel that included a layover delay in Chicago. "I'll give it everything I have for the team, and I'm 100 percent sure it's going to work."
Hurdle plans to work Frieri into his bullpen rotation through some low-leverage situations at first -- he pitched a scoreless ninth on Saturday with Pittsburgh trailing by two runs -- and his performance will dictate whether he gets upgraded to the back of the 'pen.
"Fastball -- explosive," Hurdle described Frieri's approach. "He throws strikes for the most part, one reason he's given up some homers this year. He can pitch in the zone aggressively."
Frieri admitted not knowing too much about this year's edition of the Pirates until becoming one of them.
"I'm not going to lie to you," he said, "I looked at the standings [Friday] night. We're doing really good. We have a great team, hopefully I can help win some games."
First number, last word
0-for-19: Ike Davis' batting card this season, through Friday, against New York, both the Mets (0-for-13) and the Yankees (0-for-6).
"I'm glad to be here. The travel is easier here in the NL Central. In the AL West, it was hard. That's what I hated the most, the travel. When I came here with the Padres, Pittsburgh was one of my favorite cities. The ballpark is amazing." -- Frieri, a former San Diego reliever, on being back in the NL, specifically in the Central division, with the Pirates.
• Hurdle did not announce a lineup for Saturday's game until about a half-hour prior to first pitch, awaiting word of whether Starling Marte (jammed right middle finger) would be good to go. He wasn't, so Josh Harrison manned left field and Jordy Mercer moved into the lineup's two-hole.
• The Bucs' upcoming pitching rotation, following Monday's off-day, as adjusted by Gerrit Cole's return: Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton and Vance Worley (against the D-backs); then back to Cole and Edinson Volquez against the Phillies.
• With 99 hits and only nine walks, Adam Jones of the Orioles is on pace to reach the All-Star break with one of the most unbalanced breakdowns ever between those two stats. But he can't touch the record for fewest walks with 100-plus hits at the break: The Bucs' Manny Sanguillen had four walks next to 110 hits in 1973.
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.