If you think you were waiting a while for baseball, think about what it must have been like for Andrew McCutchen.
More than a year after tearing his ACL in a rundown in San Diego, McCutchen is set to return to the Phillies' lineup in tonight's season opener. He wouldn't have been ready if the season opened on March 28, but he's ready now.
For McCutchen, it was the longest amount of time he'd ever spent without playing baseball since being introduced to it.
417 days. It’s been 417 days since I played a Major League Baseball game. The longest I have ever gone since I picked up a bat at the age of 5. I’ve cried,laughed,worked,and grown throughout this process that at times,seemed endless. I’ve missed this game so much. Now, I’m ready pic.twitter.com/j4Kbr7fJzu— andrew mccutchen (@TheCUTCH22) July 24, 2020
We will be able to see early whether McCutchen's foot speed is similar to what it was pre-injury. But the injury should not have affected his most valuable skill as a leadoff hitter: the ability to get on base.
McCutchen last season had a .378 OBP with each of his 262 plate appearances coming in the leadoff spot. That on-base percentage was about 40 points higher than the league average out of the leadoff spot. The Phillies could not find a suitable replacement for him, and they plummeted to finish 20th in baseball with a .326 OBP out of the leadoff spot.
To keep McCutchen fresh, healthy and effective, the Phillies figure to use him as their designated hitter a bit, particularly when facing a left-handed starting pitcher because Jay Bruce wouldn't be in the lineup. The Phillies face left-hander Caleb Smith of the Marlins in their second game of the season, so you could see either McCutchen or Kyle Garlick DH with the other playing left field.
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