By John Perrotto_Nyjer Morgan hasn‚Äôt exactly won the Pirates‚Äô starting left field job this spring.
However, the Pirates said before spring training began that left field was Morgan‚Äôs to lose and he didn‚Äôt. The Pirates reassigned top outfield prospect Andrew McCutchen to their minor-league camp Monday, ensuring that Morgan will be their leadoff hitter in next Monday‚Äôs opener at St. Louis.
Morgan went into Monday‚Äôs exhibition game against the Cincinnati Reds hitting .203 with a .250 on base percentage in 76 plate appearances this spring. McCutchen, meanwhile, hit .318 with 10 extra-base hits and a .423 OBP in 78 plate appearances.
However, the Pirates decided the 28-year-old Morgan is the better fit now than the 22-year-old McCutchen, who will go back to Class AAA Indianapolis for a second season despite Baseball America ranking him as the International League‚Äôs No. 2 prospect last year.
‚ÄúYou have to be careful not to base all of your decisions on spring training, you have to consider the entire body of work,‚Äù Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said.
‚ÄúEven though Nyjer has struggled at times this spring, he played extremely well over the last six weeks of last season. Andrew had an outstanding spring but he showed last year at Indianapolis that he was not the finished product.‚Äù
Huntington went on to add that he fully expects
McCutchen to make his major-league debut something this season, though he couldn‚Äôt pinpoint a date. The over/under seems to be July 1.
Even if Morgan falters early in the season, the Pirates aren‚Äôt likely to bring up McCutchen before at least Memorial Day.
Thus, the back-up plan would be to platoon left-handed hitting Eric Hinske and right-handed hitting Craig Monroe in left field and call up veteran outfielder Jeff Salazar from Indianapolis to help what would be a greatly weakened bench.
*John Perrotto covers the Pirates for Baseball America, Piratesreport.com and major league baseball for baseball prospectus