Early this morning the Pittsburgh Pirates sent Brian Bixler and Andrew McCutchen to Indianapolis. Both players were having a spring worthy of making the opening day roster. Bixler appeared to be the favorite for a final utility bench spot. More info will come from the Pirates later today, but it appears this is a “playing time” move. The organization may feel it is better to have Bixler play short and 2nd everyday in Indy than sit on the big league bench. McCutchen’s move is all about the business of baseball. By placing him on the Pirates roster later this summer gives them a full extra year of his service. So instead of 6 years of Pittsburgh service, he can get 6 1/2 years of playing time. It’s a move the Reds made with Jay Bruce a year ago and if McCutchen continues his spring training pace with the Indians…he’ll be in Pittsburgh by the middle of May.
As of today the infield will have Steve Pearce at first, Shelby Ford at second, Brian Bixler at short, and Neil Walker at third. Robinzon Diaz is the Tribe’s catcher and Andrew McCutchen will play in centerfield. The Pirates still have to make 10 more moves this week.
10:00 UPDATE Here is the latest on the moves today from Dejan Kovacevic of the Post-Gazette:
Neal Huntington discusses both moves: “We made two very difficult moves today. In both instances, the player reaffirmed our belief in their ceiling as everyday to above-average major league players. They’ve shown us signs of things to come for the future. But they’ve also shown us that work remains for each player. Both players had very strong spring trainings, but we think about the body of work, what they did last year, what they did this offseason. As we try to make logical, rational decisions for what’s best for the organization, we felt like it was the right decision to have them continue their development in Indianapolis.”
On McCutchen specifically: “He slowly but surely has ticked off a lot of the elements we wanted to see from him. The defense, the patience at the plate, all have been strong. We still have to work on the base-stealing, on the bunting, so that, when he does struggle, he can pull that third baseman in and find his way on base.”
It was not at all unusual to see Andrew working on his bunting an hour or two before regular batting practice. I really want to see how much he has improved because a year ago it was a problem. Once he adds that to his offensive arsenal his numbers will jump.
McCutchen took the demotion well: “You’re knockin’ at the door, you’re just waiting for them to open it. That’s where I’m at, and I’ll just go from there. … They told me to just keep doing what I’m doing: Don’t change my approach. Don’t change anything. Don’t go down there and feel like you have to hit .400 to make it to the big league team. … This was just more of a reassurance here of what I worked on in the offseason. I had some guys help me with certain things, and I brought it here to spring training. I feel good with where I’m at.” ,,, I asked McCutchen if he felt he outperformed people who might make the team. “No, I don’t look at it that way at all. I did what I could, and I felt like, hey, it was up to them to make the decision. It’s not up to me. All I can do is go out there and show them what I have. I believe I made the decision tough because, coming into spring training, I don’t believe I had any chance at all. But I think I made it hard on ’em. I’m good with that.”