PITTSBURGH — For the first time in six years, Andrew McCutchen will get a break. The Pirates outfielder has been an All-Star selection for five consecutive years, but after a lukewarm first half, he’ll get to spend four days away from the ballpark midseason, something that he will relish almost as much.
“I’m overly excited about the break,” he said. “It’s four days that you rarely ever get. … I’m looking forward to it.”
Obviously, he would have liked to play well enough to be selected. Even though he’s been heating up lately (he’s 4 for 9 with a double, a home run and four RBIs in the last two games), the break is something that he hopes can help him.
“It’s a win-win for me, and I feel like it’s a win-win for anyone” he said, motioning across the clubhouse to the lockers of Pirates representatives Starling Marte and Mark Melancon. “If they go, that’s great. It’s a great opportunity for them. At the same time, it’s four days that you’re not going to get at any other time. It’s good to be refreshed, get the body back where it needs to be, so the second half, you can get that second wind and get going.”
McCutchen is 29 and still in the prime of his physical career, but he is approaching the age at which some time off begins to become a big deal. John Jaso is 32 it’s something that he feels.
“As we’re older, we do need our time off here and there,” Jaso said.
Jaso and his wife are heading to the Pirates’ first second-half destination — Washington, D.C. — early to see the sights.
“We both love to travel and it’s hard being tied down for eight months during the season,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to get out and do something with the wife.”
Melancon is in a bit of a similar situation as McCutchen. He’ll be attending his third Midsummer Classic in four years, but things are a little bit different for a receiver that’s accustomed to some days off over the season. Still, it can be a grind, he admitted.
“There’s no relaxing at an All-Star game,” he laughed.
He is excited for it, of course, particularly of the time he will get to spend at the ballpark with his three children.
“It’s just a cool thing,” he said. “It’s a fun, it’s a blast and it’s an honor. … Taking my kids down on the field during home run derby is the neatest thing. Watching them playing in a jersey. Playing in the big leagues, that’s what you dream of, to have your kids experience it with you. There aren’t many opportunities to be on the field while things are happening.”
While he does’t anticipate much relaxation, he does think San Diego is a perfect spot to catch some rays and enjoy the game.
“It’s top one or two for sure,” Melancon said of San Diego’s place among potential All-Star Game host cities. “The ballpark is awesome and the weather is perfect.”
Three Pirates — Josh Harrison, Matt Joyce (quad) and Gregory Polanco (hamstring) — are not in the starting lineup with injuries and it sounds as if Hurdle will try to stay away from them altogether in the first-half finale.
Joyce and Polanco have nagging muscle injuries, while Harrison was plunked with a Jon Lester fastball.
“As soon as I got hit, I knew it was going to hurt, that’s why I tried to run it off,” Harrison said. “After standing on it for a little while, it just got progressively worse. I thought it would wear off and it kind of didn’t.”
Catcher Francisco Cervelli took batting practice for the second consecutive day as he recovers from his hamate bone injury.