Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen knows how to deflect attention. Weeks after becoming the first Pirates player to win the NL MVP Award since Barry Bonds in 1992, McCutchen changed the conversation by proposing to his girlfriend while making an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
“I knew that after I proposed to her, people would totally forget about the MVP award,” McCutchen said. “That’s as it should be.”
The proposal also allowed McCutchen to slip quietly into the offseason, which he spent trying to shore up the few holes remaining in his game a year after hitting .317 with 21 home runs, 84 RBIs and 27 stolen bases while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense.
“Andrew usually comes with a couple focus points,” Hurdle said. “His game continues to get better and more consistent. He sets the bar pretty high for himself.”
Who’s on first?
Pittsburgh decided to keep its wallet closed during free agency, leaving Gaby Sanchez and prospect Andrew Lambo to battle it out at first base. Lambo was sent to the minors and that leaves Sanchez, who has struggled to find consistent playing time since joining the Pirates in 2012. His goal is to make sure Hurdle doesn’t feel the need for any platoon, though the bigger danger is general manager Neal Huntington going shopping if he gets off to a slow start.
Pitching coach Ray Searage helped Liriano regain the form he flashed before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2006. The Pirates are hoping Searage can work the same kind of magic on journeyman Edinson Volquez.
An All-Star in 2008, Volquez hasn’t been nearly the same pitcher since having his own elbow reconstruction surgery in 2009. He went a combined 9-12 with a 5.71 ERA for San Diego and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013 before signing a one-year deal with Pittsburgh. Though he hasn’t been crisp during the spring, Volquez will be the fifth starter when the team breaks camp. How long he keeps that role is entirely up to him.