CLEARWATER, Fla. — Eight months after having surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, Andrew McCutchen says he feels good and is "right in the spot I need to be."
But will he be in the Phillies' starting lineup March 26 in Miami?
"That's the plan for me," McCutchen said Monday. "The plan is for me to be ready."
It's not clear if Phillies officials share McCutchen's optimism about being ready for opening day. They won't commit to anything until they get a good look at the 33-year-old outfielder's progress over the next five weeks of spring training. It's possible that McCutchen will be ready. But he won't be rushed. If he needs an extra few weeks to be ready, he'll get it. He's too important to the Phillies' season hopes to rush things.
"Every week, we're going to make an evaluation of where he's at and what he's ready to handle the next week," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's getting stronger every day. We just have to go week by week."
McCutchen is hitting and doing supervised fielding drills. He's doing plenty more behind the scenes.
"I'm getting here at 8 o'clock and leaving at 3, and I'm not sitting down," he said. "I'm on the go. Like right now, I'm about to get in the pool to warm up, and just grind today. That's what I'm going to continue to do until I'm ready."
McCutchen tore the ACL while trying to get out of a rundown on June 3 in San Diego. He found himself in that run-down when teammate Jean Segura failed to run out a popup.
Segura revealed Monday that the incident took a toll on him mentally last season.
McCutchen absolved Segura then and continues to do so now.
"It's all good," McCutchen said. "We talked about it. We're fine. Move on. Learn from it. I guarantee next time he's going to run to first.
"That's the end of it. It's not like I was mad at him or upset at him. That was a baseball play. I could have gone out the next inning and tried to stop and catch a ball and had my knee blow out. We don't know. I'm not blaming him for anything.
"We're not all perfect. I'm not going to sit here and say I run out every ball or that I play the game hard every single time. You intend to do it, but sometimes it doesn't work that way. There's no ill will toward him. I'm not blaming him. No one is perfect, so just move on from it."
Losing McCutchen last season was a huge loss that the Phillies never recovered from. He had a .378 on-base percentage, second-best in the majors among leadoff men, when he went down on June 3. Phillies leadoff men had a paltry .295 on-base percentage the rest of the season and that ranked 29th in baseball over that span.
If McCutchen does not open the season on time, the Phillies could use Jay Bruce, Roman Quinn or Adam Haseley in left field. Quinn and Haseley are also candidates to play center field. Bryce Harper is set in right field. The Phils also have a number of players vying for spots on the bench and one of them could emerge as a safety net for McCutchen. Time will tell.
When he's ready to go, McCutchen believes he will be stronger than ever because of his intense rehab work.
"When I come back, I'll be stronger," he said. "It's like basically going in the gym every day and doing a lower body workout. You're going in every single day and I'm there for five hours a day and doing a lower-body workout. If I wasn't injured, I'd be doing a lower body workout every two or three days, but now it's every day, it's repetitive. It's over and over and over. It's like all you're doing is getting yourself stronger."