Andrew McCutchen expected to be in the Pittsburgh Pirates starting lineup for the Pirates home opener, barring injury. This was largely because Derek Shelton had declared that on January 27. The 36-year-old veteran outfielder and past All-Star was returning to his original team, and Pirates fans were delighted.
With a slightly sore elbow, is Cutch surely entering his last season?
This is a shame for Bucs fans as McCutchen is likely the most popular player to wear the black and gold since the days of young Barry Bonds.
Pittsburgh has been the home of Andrew McCutchen since his earliest days in MLB. His family has always lived there. The player is frank that, until his experience as a Milwaukee Brewer last year, he had felt uncomfortable returning to PNC Park in an opponent’s uniform.
However, though the Pirates are being cautious with their popular player, not all hope is lost for that home opener re-introduction. Pittsburgh’s first game at home won’t be played until April 7 (against the White Sox).
The bigger question at this point is whether this is Cutch’s last season. His batting average has dropped unevenly in the five years since leaving the Pirates. The .277 career hitter settled at .237 for Milwaukee after bottoming out at .222 his last year with Philadelphia (2021).
Nonetheless, McCutchen has always been a player to bring something to the table besides a great clubhouse presence. In ’21, for example, while not hitting for average, the outfielder drove in 80, the most since his last year in Pittsburgh.
He also somehow produces “big moments,” moments that keep fans talking. An example there must be homering on the third pitch he saw as a Phillie, batting leadoff, on opening day of ’19 – at home. Even during the COVID season, McCutchen kept in mind that people were watching the game on TV. He talked to the cardboard cutouts in the stands and threw them balls when innings ended.
And you bet the broadcast cameras caught that.
Andrew McCutchen will sell tickets in Pittsburgh. Three times in his five All-Star years the Pirates made the playoffs, and people in the ‘Burgh remember that.
The decision to quit or not won’t be easy for the popular outfielder if he has a decent year. Among other milestones, he is nearing 300 home runs. The Pirates are paying Andrew McCutchen $5 million this year. Although the player has made almost 25 times that much in his career, he may feel he still has a few more big moments in him, just a little more fun.