McCutchen back at top of lineup

McCutchen back at top of lineup

HOUSTON -- Manager John Russell, who has long envisioned Andrew McCutchen as permanently settling into the leadoff role, moved his center fielder back there on Wednesday.

McCutchen reclaimed the batting order's top spot, which had belonged to left fielder Jose Tabata since the Pirates called Tabata up from Triple-A the second week of June. Tabata, in turn, moved down to hit second, and Neil Walker slotted into the No. 3 hole.

Russell's main objective in shuffling the top three hitters was to get McCutchen -- owner of a team-best .376 on-base percentage this year -- back on top. McCutchen hit leadoff in all 108 games he played during his rookie season. Wednesday will be just his 13th time there this season.

"I like him there and I think he likes being there," Russell said. "Just a little bit of a change to see if the top of the order -- which has done really well for us -- can continue that with a little different dynamic."

Tabata has become comfortable hitting first after filling the leadoff spot in Triple-A even before being promoted to the Majors. However, Russell expects Tabata to thrive batting behind McCutchen, particularly because of Tabata's ability to move McCutchen from first to third more easily by hitting to the right side of the field.