McCutchen aggravates nagging thumb injury

Pirates' star center fielder thinks he can keep swelling down, play through it

McCutchen aggravates nagging thumb injury

MIAMI -- The Pirates endured a painful night at Marlins Park on Thursday that had little to do with the end result of a 4-3, 12-inning loss, their third straight defeat. Catcher Francisco Cervelli, shortstop Jordy Mercer and infielder David Freese were all forced out of the game after being hit by pitches. But what sent Andrew McCutchen to the clubhouse?

McCutchen lined out to Miami shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria with one out in the sixth inning and didn't return. Starling Marte replaced McCutchen in center field, and Sean Rodriguez assumed his spot in the lineup. After the game, McCutchen revealed that he has been playing through a nagging, swollen right thumb muscle for more than a week.

Standing at his locker after the game, McCutchen showed a group of reporters the swollen area between his right thumb and index finger, an issue that becomes aggravated every time his bat vibrates when he's jammed by an inside pitch.

"It's something I've been dealing with for a while. I don't think I could take it any longer after my last at-bat," McCutchen said. "Repeatedly balls that have been in and I've been getting jammed on have been irritating my thumb. It just flared up on me after my last at-bat."

McCutchen said his hand is structurally sound, and he won't consider a trip to the disabled list. He's been using a thumb guard the last few days to soften the blow, and he's been icing "the heck out of it," he said.

"That's the best thing for it. Anything to get the swelling down," he said. "It's a little swollen in there, but the ice has been good.

"I guess I need to tell myself to get the [bat] head out one time so I can get the barrel to the ball where I'm not getting jammed. ... It's just flared up a little more than normal. I should be all right. Just keep icing it and see how I feel tomorrow."

After going 0-for-3 on Thursday, McCutchen is batting .254/.333/.445 with nine homers and 23 RBIs in 51 games. He's swinging and missing at a career-high rate and making less contact than any full season in his career.

With ice and treatment, McCutchen believes he can continue to play through the swelling. Never one to make excuses, McCutchen refused to blame his early-season struggles on the injury.

"I don't want to gauge that and say that's the main reason. My hands, body's not necessarily where it needs to be -- not physically, just in the box. It's just not exactly where it needs to be," McCutchen said. "Hit the ball hard, but I know I can hit the ball better. ... When it comes to the barrel getting to the ball, it's just dragging a little bit. It's an easy fix, quick fix.

"I know I can battle through it and get it done. I know where I need to be at. I can make that quick, small adjustment and get to where I know I can be."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.