By Bruce Levine-
CHICAGO (CBS) — For years, National League MVP Andrew McCutchen was pitched around. It’s a common practice for foes to pitch around a team’s best hitter or two. In the NL, where runs are tough to come by, it is even more prevalent to pitch around a guy that can beat you.
So McCutchen was my first stop Tuesday at the park when researching whether Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are prime candidates to be pitched around in the less-than-All Star-caliber everyday lineup of the Cubs’.
“The first thing you learn is too stay with your own game plan,” McCutchen said. “You have to concentrate on what your strong points are. The pitcher will know your weak points, so you need to know yourself what they are.”
Castro and Rizzo are two different types of hitters. Both, however, suffered greatly last summer after Alfonso Soriano was traded to the Yankees. Their plight may be once again impacted by a lack of protection in the Cubs’ lineup this season.
“You should already know how to handle those situations when you get here (big leagues),” McCutchen said. “Hey, these guys were pitched around in the minors as well. As far as having an eye for your hitting zone, it is something you should pick up early as you progress.”
In 2013, the Cub hitting gurus asked Castro to work the count and take more pitches. That plan was a a failure for Castro, and the plan was dumped in late summer.
“In the minor leagues, it was see the ball hit the ball,” Castro said. “That was OK. We did not use video or reports. Now we look at everything, the pitcher, my own film and we get a lot of reports as well.”
Both young players have the advantage of having their new manager coming from a team that also struggled to score runs. Rick Renteria spent many seasons in San Diego watching his club have its best young hitters pitched around.
“If you feel like there is a weakness behind, you certainly might work around them,” Renteria said. “It all depends on how the hitter behind them reacts. We hope are guys act in way and zone into what they can do.”
Ultimately, it’s up to a good young hitter not to make excuses about the talent or lack of around them.
“That type of thinking could be an excuse for what hits it home for yourself personally,” McCutchen said. “You can’t make an excuse. You have to work with what you have.”