PHILADELPHIA -- Maybe Clint Hurdle could talk a pig into a luau, as has been said about the Pirates' persuasive manager. After all, he apparently has succeeded in talking Andrew McCutchen out of the lineup.
Hurdle entered the season with a master plan to occasionally, but regularly, rest his regulars. Getting McCutchen to buy into that agenda figured to be a challenge, because the All-Star shows up every day wanting and expecting to play.
But the plan had McCutchen taking a day on Thursday, so he sat, hot bat be darned, for most of the Citizens Bank Park afternoon, until he was needed to make a pinch-hitting appearance. McCutchen popped up in a very key spot -- representing the tying run with two outs in the ninth. He also popped up Jonathan Papelbon's second pitch, ending the Bucs' 4-2 loss. Still, McCutchen has ripped off an 11-for-30, with five extra-base hits, in his past nine games to crank his average from .185 to .230.
Hurdle said McCutchen's breaks from the starting lineup for the rest of the season have already been programmed.
"We have scheduled days off for him throughout the season, they're already in place," Hurdle said. "Based on steps, distance covered, times on base -- all those things.
"It will help everybody," Hurdle added.
The manager spoke in general terms, but he could have had Starling Marte in mind. After his 3-for-4 in Thursday's game, the regular left fielder is a .369 hitter in the 25 games he has started in McCutchen's place.
Hurdle didn't really put McCutchen on the bench. He put him in the starting blocks for Wrigley Field.
"[The day off] gives him an opportunity to fire through three day games in Chicago," Hurdle acknowledged.
Compared to his .239 lifetime average in Citizens Bank Park, McCutchen has hit .350 in the Friendly Confines, with six homers and 26 RBIs. The Bucs open a three-afternoon-game series against the Cubs on Friday.