BRADENTON, Fla. — Andrew McCutchen does not plan to rest on his shiny 2013 National League Most Valuable Player trophy.
The Pirates center fielder arrived at spring training vowing to have a better season than last year when he became the first Pirates player since Barry Bonds in 1992 to win MVP honors. McCutchen hit .317 with 21 home runs and 27 stolen bases in 157 games.
“I’m just trying to continue the things I’ve been doing, every facet of the game,” McCutchen said. “I’m going to focus even more on baserunning, because I know I can get better at it. I’ll get on base, and everyone will know I’m going to second, but I’ve still got to do it. You’ve got to work on it. Being consistent at the plate, being consistent with my throws and defense, all of that.”
McCutchen actually regressed a bit last year from his 2012 season when he had a .327 batting average with 31 homers and 20 steals in 157 games while also winning an NL Gold Glove. The difference last season was team success as the Pirates had both their first winning season and postseason appearance since 1992.
“He usually comes to spring training with a couple focus points,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ll get his thoughts on the work he’s done this winter and where his focus is this spring, and we’ll see if it matches up. Every year I’ve been here, it pretty much has. His game continues to get better and more consistent. He sets the bar pretty high for himself.”
McCutchen also set the bar pretty high for any guy thinking of proposing to his girlfriend. In December, he popped the question in front of a national television audience on “The Ellen Show.”
The proposal caused McCutchen to gain more national notoriety than his considerable baseball exploits.
“I knew that after I proposed, people would totally forget about the MVP award,” McCutchen said with a smile. “That’s as it should be.”
Fantasy Update: McCutchen is one of the top-five players in Fantasy Baseball and is a lock first rounder. He is in the prime of his career and should be in line for another All-Star-caliber season.
— LHP Francisco Liriano has been tabbed to start the season opener March 31 against the Chicago Cubs in Pittsburgh. Liriano went 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA in 26 starts last season and was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year by MLB.com. A year earlier, Liriano had gone a combined 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA with the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox. It will be the second time Liriano has started on opening day as he also had the honor in 2009 with the Twins.
— RHP Jason Grilli has had fewer throwing sessions than the rest of the Pirates’ pitchers during the early days of spring training but the closer says that is by design and not because of any lingering effects of the strained forearm that sidelined him for nearly six weeks during the second half of last season. “It’s a long spring and I’m just pacing myself, taking my time,” the 37-year-old Grilli said. He converted 33 of 35 save opportunities last season and had a 2.70 ERA in 54 games.
— LHP Wandy Rodriguez has been throwing off a mound without pain. “I was a little nervous the first time I threw but I didn’t feel anything,” he said. Rodriguez did not pitch after June 5 last season because of a strained left forearm, finishing the year 6-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 12 starts.
— OF Travis Snider had his activity limited Tuesday during the Pirates’ first full-squad workout because of a cut on his left hand. Snider suffered the injury Monday while chopping sweet potatoes. The injury is not expected to set Snider back in his competition with OF Jose Tabata for the starting right fielder’s job.
— RHP Kyle McPherson has progressed to throwing off flat ground from 120 feet as he continues his recovery from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery performed last July. He is expected to start throwing off a mound during the first week of March.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I told the men that if you have one foot in the past and one foot in the future that you’re likely to crap all over today,” — manager Clint Hurdle on his message to the Pirates before their first full-squad workout.
ROSTER REPORT — No changes.