There are a lot oddities in Grapefruit League lineups. There is no continuity in the lineups or in the positional assignments because the real purpose of preseason games is to get players reps at all the positions they might be tasked with playing in the regular season. In the first few weeks of Grapefruit League action you are more likely to see Keon Broxton or Jaff Decker patrolling centerfield at McKenchie Field than Andrew McCutchen. In fact, through the first 5 preseason games Cutch has yet to play a single inning in the outfield. That is neither important nor alarming. Cutch will be in CF on opening day. And despite his glove not seeing any game action as of yet, his bat has.
That brings us to another peculiarity of Spring Training – the daily use of the designated hitter in which McCutchen has twice been penciled into the lineup. As a National League team the Pirates only get to use the DH during the regular season in the 10 interleague games they have scheduled in American League Ball Parks. Those 10 interleague games provide an opportunity to give a star player like McCutchen a little rest while still keeping his bat in the lineup. However, manager Clint Hurdle has shown little creativity with his use of the DH during interleague play. In his career Andrew McCutchen has been a DH during the regular season just twice (and not once last season). Neil Walker has served as a DH only once in his career. That is almost negligence on the part of the skipper given Walker’s chronic bad back.
American League teams regularly use the DH to keep their stars rested. Mike Trout was a DH 8 times last season and has served as a DH 18 times in his 3+ year career. If 23 year old Mike Trout can benefit from a day of not having to patrol the outfield then so can Andrew McCutchen. Of course Trout’s Angels have a daily opportunity to use the DH whereas the Pirates do not. But that just means that the Pirates should make better use of the DH with the precious few opportunities they have to use it. Hurdle has already spoken this Spring of his desire to keep McCutchen more rested this season. If he is truly serious about giving Cutch some additional rest he can look back at his lineups over the first week of the Grapefruit League as a way to accomplish that. The Pirates have 10 opportunities to use the DH this season. It would be best not to waste them. Give Cutch and Walker a break.