With tuneup out of way, McCutchen's ready

With tuneup out of way, McCutchen's ready

PITTSBURGH -- Daniel McCutchen is back in Pittsburgh after making one final spring tune-up in Bradenton, Fla., on Tuesday. After watching Monday's season opener at PNC Park, McCutchen flew back to Florida to throw 60 pitches in an intrasquad game.

The right-hander made his final Grapefruit League appearance last Thursday and needed Tuesday's outing to stay on track for his first regular-season start, which will come against the D-backs on Saturday.

"It went well," McCutchen said. "I felt good. I'm ready to go. I feel good with all of my pitches right now."

The results of Tuesday's outing are inconsequential, considering coaches had to fill some of the spots on the field because not enough players were available. Even rehabbing right-hander Joel Hanrahan played briefly at second. Still, McCutchen used the start to continue focusing on his slider, which he labeled as a "huge pitch" for him this season.

McCutchen fared well throwing the offspeed pitch to right-handed hitters during Spring Training, but he hardly used it against lefty hitters. That changed on Tuesday, when McCutchen threw the pitch more liberally and even struck out two left-handed hitters with it.

Without the need for a fifth starter for much of April, the Pirates still plan on skipping McCutchen twice after he makes his 2010 debut on Saturday. That likely means McCutchen is headed down to Triple-A Indianapolis after the weekend in order to continue pitching on a regular schedule.