After the Pirates waited a few weeks for McCutchen to begin using his speed to cause havoc on the basepaths, the speedy center fielder is beginning to take the chances most expected him to take right out of the gate. It seems to be no coincidence, either, that the increase in aggressiveness coincides with manager Clint Hurdle moving McCutchen out of the No. 3 hole and into the leadoff spot.
"A lot of times being third, I didn't have a lot of opportunities," McCutchen said. "Being the leadoff guy, you're going to have a little more of an opportunity to steal some bases in certain situations. It helps out."
It helps out, too, that McCutchen is reaching base again with regularity. Stealing bases was hardly a concern while McCutchen was mired in a 2-for-28 slump from April 7-15. Since then, though, he has reached base in 13 of 29 plate appearances. He's attempted to steal four bases during that span and has been successful three times. Those are his only steals of the season.
"When he got on before I think he was more concerned with not making an out on the bases," Hurdle said. "Now he's gotten on with more repetition and frequency. He's starting to get that swagger back. I put him back up top just because of the roots he's had there. Maybe it would give him better freedom and better familiarity, and maybe that could be helping out some."
McCutchen stole 33 bases in 43 attempts last season, but talked openly this spring about wanting to be even more aggressive this year.