PITTSBURGH -- In his mind, Andrew McCutchen planned on spending more days in September like he did on Monday -- dressed in a Pirates uniform, taking batting practice, sitting in on hitting coach Don Long's hitter's meeting and talking to the Pittsburgh media.
However, since McCutchen, the top prospect in the organization, was not among those called up this month, he'll have to settle for this three-day stint during which he can observe and soak in life in the big leagues.
"I plan on being here someday, and I'll take as much as I can out of being here now," said McCutchen, who along with Triple-A teammate Neil Walker will be with the Pirates through Wednesday.
The 21-year-old McCutchen expressed disappointment in not making his Major League debut this month, but understood the logistics of a potential call up didn't work in his favor.
The Pirates would have had to add McCutchen to the team's 40-man roster, which means another player would have had to be taken off. And probably most influential in the decision was that the Pirates simply didn't have the playing time to give to the center fielder.
While this season was not a breakout year of sorts for McCutchen, it was certainly a notable stepping stone in his anticipated ascent to the big leagues. It was his first full season at Triple-A, and McCutchen marked it with season-long consistency.
One year after McCutchen entered the All-Star break hitting just .240, the five-tool outfielder posted nearly steady results in the 135 games he played for Indianapolis this year. After hitting .282 before the All-Star Game, he followed it up with a .286 average. His power numbers dropped (nine homers), but his stolen base attempts increased (34 stolen bases in all).
McCutchen also finished strong, posting a .324 average in August for a team already out of postseason contention.
"I'm not satisfied with it, but I'm pleased with it. I know I can improve, and I know I can do better," he said. "I just need to crisp it up a little more and be ready."
Though the Pirates approached him about playing winter ball this offseason, McCutchen lobbied for some time off, which was eventually agreed upon. He'll come into Spring Training fighting for a roster spot, something for which general manager Neal Huntington already said McCutchen will be considered.
"I think I have a good chance of making it," McCutchen said. "Not getting called up is just fuel for the fire for me to work hard this offseason to show them that I am ready."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.