New right fielder McCutchen gets feet wet

New right fielder McCutchen gets feet wet

BRADENTON, Fla. -- As the Pirates took the field early Saturday afternoon, Andrew McCutchen ran out to assume his place in right field. He wouldn't say it felt weird, but it was different.

Pittsburgh unveiled its realigned outfield, featuring McCutchen in right for the first time since he broke into the Majors, as the Bucs opened their Grapefruit League schedule with a 6-2 split-squad win over the Orioles at LECOM Park.

"Never done that before," McCutchen said. "That's the least of my worries, running out to right field. I just need to make the plays."

Hurdle on McCutchen to right

The words ringing out of the public-address system in the first inning were different, too: "Batting third, the right fielder, No. 22, Andrew McCutchen!" But the result of his first Spring Training at-bat was a reassuringly familiar sight for the Pirates.

McCutchen, coming off the worst offensive season of his career, ripped a line-drive double to left-center field off Orioles right-hander Gabriel Ynoa. McCutchen immediately scored on Gregory Polanco's single to center, one of Polanco's three hits on the day and part of an encouraging start for outfielders McCutchen, Polanco and Starling Marte.

"First day, get it out of the way. Good to get those feet in the dirt, dig in and be ready to go," McCutchen said. "It was good to see some pitching on the field. All the hard work, now you've got to show it out there on the field."

Two innings later, McCutchen settled under a fly ball and made his first catch as the Pirates' right fielder. The longtime center fielder was reminded Saturday about several responsibilities of his new position.

For one, he'll have to back up first base on throws across the infield. Right field is more of a reaction-based position than center. And foul territory can disappear in a hurry, as McCutchen learned during the fifth inning; McCutchen chased Audry Perez's foul ball and ventured closer to the stands, peeling away at the last second when he realized the ball was out of his reach.

"Knowing your elements, knowing when to slow down, when you can make the play, all that good stuff," McCutchen said. "I got a small, small taste of it today. Just have to keep going out there, keep playing, things I have to keep paying attention to."

It may be different for McCutchen, but manager Clint Hurdle isn't worried about the transition.

"This is all new ground for him. He's a very gifted defender. It'll take some time," Hurdle said. "However, I think he'll be in a really good place. ... He knows he needs to really put some intent and speed into everything just to find out what he can do out there and where he can go out there."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.