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PITTSBURGH — Andrew McCutchen spent nine seasons as the face of the franchise in Pittsburgh, but in the first inning Friday night, he’ll do something he hasn't done before at PNC Park. McCutchen never stepped foot in the visiting clubhouse or dugout while playing for the Pirates, but he’ll make that strange journey as the Giants make their first trip to Pittsburgh since an offseason trade.
McCutchen has spent this week giving interviews to reporters who made the five-hour trip, and he’ll hold a press conference Friday. Then he’ll step into the batter’s box and wait for the emotions to arrive. Asked what he expects, McCutchen said this will be like his wedding day or the birth of his first child last year. He doesn’t know what emotions will come out, but he knows something will.
“You can’t anticipate how you’re going to feel,” he said. “I’m going to go there and be in the moment and let the emotions be what they are. You’re ready for it to get here, but at the same time, you try to live in the moment.”
The moment is sure to include a standing ovation from the locals. McCutchen did not leave as a free agent; he was traded as the team attempted to jumpstart a rebuild. In 1,346 games for the Pirates, McCutchen gave a city all he had, batting .291 with 203 home runs, an MVP award and a Gold Glove award. He made five All-Star teams.
For the most part, McCutchen’s run here was joyful. But the last couple of years were filled with trade rumors, and he was exchanged for Kyle Crick and prospect Bryan Reynolds this January as the Pirates moved forward with a new core. They also dealt ace Gerrit Cole, who looks like a Cy Young candidate in Houston.
McCutchen’s transition has not been as seamless. Overall, he’s batting .250 with a .757 OPS and three homers with the Giants. But he has a nine-game hitting streak and is batting .414 during that span. The timing is certainly right for a return home.
“I don’t want to be going in there not feeling great,” he said. “That’s a plus being able to go in there knowing I’m feeling good. This year I’ve been feeling good, but to have the results (recently) is a plus.”
I’m baaaaack— andrew mccutchen (@TheCUTCH22) May 11, 2018
McCutchen will be far from the only one enjoying a reunion. Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Hunter Strickland, Gorkys Hernandez and Alen Hanson have all played for the Pirates organization. On the other side, George Kontos and Crick are waiting.
But this moment will be about McCutchen.
“I know the fans there and it’s going to be great,” he said. “They’re going to come out and show their support. It’s going to be fun. I’ll do my best to be in the moment and cherish it.”