PITTSBURGH - Andrew McCutchen put pitchers on guard prior to Sunday's game -- then put a guard on.
When he came to bat in the first inning of the Bucs' 2-1 loss to the Braves, McCutchen wore an elbow guard on the left arm where he had been hit by a Julio Teheran pitch in the first inning of Saturday's game.
Under ordinary circumstances -- with or without having been hit by that pitch -- McCutchen was a Sunday candidate to pull into Clint Hurdle's rest stop. The Pirates are off Monday, and the manager always looks for opportunities to bundle days off for his regulars.
However, being shown out of Saturday's game in the first inning by the Teheran fastball made these circumstances extraordinary. So soon after opening his eyes Sunday morning, McCutchen texted Hurdle:
"I'm ready to play. Put me in the lineup, and I'll be there."
"I wouldn't say he's 100 percent," Hurdle added after relaying the text from his All-Star center fielder. "He got hit on the arm. I think he is ready to play. I did not doubt the fact that once he felt he was ready, he would play. And I believe he is ready."
The impression left by McCutchen's eagerness to return to the lineup was that he definitely was ready to exact baseball revenge on the Braves.
Indeed, McCutchen swung aggressively -- he saw a total of only nine pitches in four at-bats -- and made consistently good contact against left-hander Alex Wood, who otherwise was giving the Pirates fits. After twice flying out on balls he'd squared up, hitting just enough underneath both to give them too much air, McCutchen tried to ignite a comeback rally in the seventh inning by roping a single into left-center.
"We only had a few guys in the lineup get good looks [at Wood]. McCutchen got his swing off against him," Hurdle said. "He got his swing off fine; no complications whatsoever."
Hurdle had pencilled McCutchen into the lineup even before the follow-up treatment and evaluation that had been scheduled after his in-game X-rays on Saturday had come up negative.
"I don't even know if it's happened yet," Hurdle said of the reevaluation before the game. "I haven't even seen him. I trust guys. I don't need to see them jump through hoops. The trainer told me he was ready to play."
"It's pretty simple," McCutchen said after the game. "In the morning, it was fine. Easy decision."
So the PNC Park crowd got to see McCutchen wearing the protective elbow guard, which he has never found comfortable in the past. In the wake of again being hit on the arm, he recognized the need to find a sleeve that did not inhibit his swing.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.