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Cutch: Return is 'all about how I respond'

Fellow outfielder Bruce plans to be ready by Opening Day
@ToddZolecki
February 29, 2020

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If Andrew McCutchen needed to play on Saturday, he said he believes he could. “But could I play to the best of my ability?” he said on Saturday morning at Spectrum Field. “Probably not. I need to be me, I need to be Andrew McCutchen when I’m

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If Andrew McCutchen needed to play on Saturday, he said he believes he could.

“But could I play to the best of my ability?” he said on Saturday morning at Spectrum Field. “Probably not. I need to be me, I need to be Andrew McCutchen when I’m out there on the field.”

McCutchen is not physically where he wants to be yet. He needs more time, which is why he will not be ready to play by Opening Day on March 26 in Miami. He had ACL surgery on his left knee in June, and said he is making progress and there have been no setbacks. But while he said he is doing some things “really, really well,” there are other things that still need work. Some things he has not tried, like running down balls in the outfield or making the sudden stops and starts in a rundown.

“It doesn’t change how I’m preparing and going about my days,” McCutchen said.

He said he hopes to play in Grapefruit League games before camp breaks on March 23. The Phillies hope he can rejoin the team sometime in April.

McCutchen’s absence from the Opening Day lineup means the Phillies will look to Jay Bruce in left field, or some combination of Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn in left and center. It also opens up a roster spot for an extra outfielder. Kyle Garlick and Nick Williams are on the 40-man roster, which gives them an edge over several non-roster candidates.

But eventually the Phillies need McCutchen back in the lineup. He slashed .256/.378/.457 with a 115 OPS+ in 262 plate appearances before sustaining his injury in June. Phillies leadoff hitters (almost exclusively McCutchen) ranked second in baseball with a .379 on-base percentage and fifth with a 123 wRC+ through June 3, according to FanGraphs. Phillies leadoff hitters ranked 29th with a .295 on-base percentage and tied for 29th with a 79 wRC+ the rest of the season. The inability to find an effective replacement for McCutchen at the top of the lineup helped scuttle the offense over the final four months of the season.

“For all anyone knows, three weeks from now I could [say], ‘I feel great. I’m ready to go,’” McCutchen said. “But it’s all about how I respond to everything, how I feel afterward. … [I] need to be doing everything really well so I can just be myself. Honestly, I feel like I could play right now if I wanted. But I wouldn’t be who I am.

“I see myself [being ready] on March 27 [for the second game of the season]. The trainers and [others], they can tell you what they see. But me, I see myself in Miami on March 27 leading off. I have to do that. That’s me, and that’s what I’m doing to keep going.”

Bruce will be ready
Phillies manager Joe Girardi said Bruce has not played in the field this spring because he is working through his throwing program. Bruce did not play much late last season due to a strained left elbow.

Wait, does that mean Bruce is still bothered by elbow soreness?

“It’s healed,” Bruce said. “I feel great. The throwing progression is going great. I think their No. 1 priority is, especially with the injury situation with Andrew, for me to be healthy on Opening Day.

"When the new training staff came on, they met with me and I got reevaluated. They put me on a throwing program in December that took me through the first, second week of March. This was planned from the very beginning. I’m feeling great. I 100% feel that there’s absolutely no issues at all. This is exactly where I need to be right now.”

Bruce hopes to play in the outfield in a Grapefruit League game the first or second week of March.

And Opening Day?

“If Andrew’s not ready, I plan on playing left field on March 26,” he said.

Extra bases
• In the sixth inning, third baseman Alec Bohm made a nice play moving to his right that included a jump throw to first base. The ball popped out of first baseman Austin Listi’s glove.

“It was a really good play,” Girardi said. “Our guys have been happy with the strides that he’s made [defensively].”

• Center fielder Adam Haseley still has a stiff neck after slamming his head into the turf on Tuesday in Clearwater. He will likely return to the lineup on Wednesday.

• Right-handers Jake Arrieta and Seranthony Domínguez will be among the pitchers in a 10:30 a.m. ET scrimmage on Sunday at Carpenter Complex. Arrieta is pitching in the scrimmage to make room for left-hander Ranger Suárez to start against the Orioles in a Grapefruit League game at Spectrum Field. Domínguez, meanwhile, is recovering from last year's season-ending right elbow injury.

• The Phillies have agreed to terms on 2020 contracts with all of their pre-arbitration players.

Up next
Rotation hopeful Suárez will make his second start of the spring when the Phillies host the Orioles at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday at Spectrum Field. Suárez, who is competing with Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and others for the club's final rotation spot, tossed two scoreless innings in his spring debut. Fans can listen to the action live on Gameday Audio.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .