PITTSBURGH -- As most of the Pirates suited up for batting practice on Tuesday, Andrew McCutchen sat in front of his locker with ice around the left side of his torso and put on a pair of socks. That's something the reigning National League Most Valuable Player couldn't do two days earlier because of an injury.
On Tuesday, the Pirates announced that McCutchen has a fracture of his left 11th rib, which is the second rib from the bottom. In a statement, the Pirates identified the injury as an avulsion fracture, which occurs when a portion of bone is chipped away from the main bone, and added that the injury involves the cartilage of the 11th rib.
McCutchen can put on socks, but he's in no shape to swing a bat or throw a baseball. However, he was not placed on the disabled list, as both he and the team are holding out hope he may be healthy enough to play in the next two weeks.
"[The plan is to] keep evaluating me and see how I feel right now," said McCutchen, who has never spent time on the DL in his five-year Major League career. "We don't want to make a decision yet; we don't want to put me on the DL right away because there's a chance I could be better before 15 days are up. There's a chance."
Manager Clint Hurdle said there's no precise timetable as to how long the team will wait before deciding to put McCutchen on the DL. Ice and rest are the early treatments, and McCutchen will continue to work with trainers through the injury.
The star center fielder was hurt after swinging during an eighth-inning sacrifice fly on Sunday against the D-backs. McCutchen barely jogged down the first-base line and had to be assisted down the dugout steps to the trainer's room. The injury came a day after McCutchen was hit in the spine with a fastball from D-backs reliever Randall Delgado.
McCutchen said he didn't know if the fractured rib had any correlation to the plunking, which came the day after a pitch from Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri fractured All-Star slugger Paul Goldschmidt's left hand. Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said he thought the two instances were unrelated and said that connecting them was a "conspiracy theory."
"If that's what you like to do, you can go with it," Hurdle said. "I don't think it's factual nor accurate. That's just my personal opinion from the information I've had put together."
McCutchen, 27, leads Pittsburgh in nearly every major offensive category and boasts numbers that are actually ahead of his MVP pace from 2013. In 109 games this season, McCutchen is hitting .311 with a .411 on-base percentage and a .536 slugging percentage, with 17 homers and 67 RBIs. He leads the NL in walks (68) and offensive wins above replacement (5.8).
The Pirates did make one roster move on Tuesday, activating outfielder Starling Marte from the 7-day concussion DL and placing third baseman Pedro Alvarez on the bereavement list. Marte -- who has center field experience but is the Pirates' everyday left fielder -- is expected to get most of the starts in center during McCutchen's absence. Marte was slated to lead off and play center against the Marlins on Tuesday night, his first game since July 21. Marte missed time after being hit on the helmet with a fastball on July 18.
It's rare for McCutchen to be out of the Bucs' lineup. Since he debuted on June 4, 2009, McCutchen has been out of the starting lineup just 34 times. In those 34 contests, the Pirates are 16-18, but they're 8-2 in games McCutchen hasn't started since the start of the 2013 season.
Though sitting and cheering is uncharted territory for the four-time All-Star, McCutchen was rather upbeat in his meeting with the media. He cracked a few smiles and suggested that reporters were better off "WebMD'ing it" when he got into some technical medical terms. Hurdle called McCutchen's attitude refreshing.
"Don't feel bad for me; I'll be fine. And don't give up on our team, because we're good," McCutchen said of a Pirates squad that entered Tuesday 1 1/2 games back in the NL Central-leading Brewers and a half-game out in the NL Wild Card chase.
"Just because one person is not, we'll be OK. And when I do come back, I'll let it be known I'm back."
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.