Possibly the saddest substitution in Pittsburgh Pirates history occurred on Sunday August 3rd when Jayson Nix entered the game for Andrew McCutchen in the 8th inning. McCutchen was seen wincing and holding his side after flying out in his at-bat. Since leaving the game, rumors have swirled of how serious McCutchen’s injury is, and for how long he may be out of the lineup. With the Bucs in the heat of a playoff race, each game without Cutch is a vital blow to the Pirates’ chances of making the postseason.
While first being reported as an oblique strain, word soon came out that McCutchen had a fractured rib. Per the Pirates Twitter, “[Andrew McCutchen] has been diagnosed with an avulsion fracture involving the costochondral cartilage of the left 11th rib.” While the injury sounds quite significant, McCutchen continues to remain on the active roster. It seems that management is hoping Cutch responds well to the injury, and returns sooner than expected.
While this is hopeful thinking, it is also a very risky play. If McCutchen were to come back too soon and aggravate the injury further, it is safe to say making the playoffs will be out of the question. McCutchen is the best player in the National League and was likely on his way to a second straight MVP before this injury. The Pirates cannot afford to lose him for an extended period of time.
Although McCutchen does not have an exact timetable for return, Rob Biertempfel tweeted some promising news from GM Neal Huntington Sunday afternoon.
“Huntington re: McCutchen recovery: “His progress has been remarkable. That’s the most apt word I can put on it.”
This is best thing for any Pirates fan to hear. The thought that McCutchen may only be out for a short period of time brings life into the hearts of Bucco nation. Hopefully more good news is to come, but for now the team must keep playing without Cutch and without any idea of when he’ll return.
With McCutchen’s return date still up in the air, one wonders if Huntington will swing an August trade to give more depth to the outfield. Acquiring Marlon Byrd last year paid off in spades. He contributed greatly down the stretch and went on to hit one of the most important home runs in recent Pirates history. For those feeling nostalgic his bomb can be seen HERE. Neal Huntington was able to pull off some magic last year, and he will likely have to do so again if the Pirates want to make the postseason for the second year in a row.