August 01, 2017

PITTSBURGH (AP) Andrew McCutchen has watched the slow but steady exodus from the Pittsburgh Pirates clubhouse over the last two years as the pieces that helped the team to three straight playoff appearances moved on.

From Neil Walker to Russell Martin to Francisco Liriano to Mark Melancon to A.J. Burnett, the faces that were an integral part of Pittsburgh's success are long gone, via trades, free agency or retirement.

And yet, McCutchen remains. At least for now. The Pirates held on to their five-time All-Star center fielder at Monday's non-waiver trade deadline, instead sending longtime reliever Tony Watson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two prospects and bringing in 40-year-old Joaquin Benoit from Philadelphia to fill Watson's seventh-inning role.

Not exactly an ''all in'' approach for a club that entered Tuesday 5 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the crowded National League Central. Asked what he made of Pittsburgh's moves, the 2013 NL MVP shrugged.

''We didn't make many, that's what I think about it,'' McCutchen said, later adding the Pirates will ''just work with what we got here. It's other guys' jobs to do that.''

General manager Neal Huntington said the team still believes in its core group, one that for the rest of the season will include McCutchen, a notion McCutchen met with a sense of relief. The team sought a trade partner for their franchise cornerstone last December but couldn't find the right deal. It was more of the same seven months later as the 4 p.m. EDT deadline came and went with McCutchen still in black and yellow.

''Everyone has their eyes and ears, just keying on everything, seeing what's happening, seeing what's moving, seeing who's coming, seeing who's going,'' he said. ''It can always be a little taxing. That's over with, can put that behind us and show up today and just be ready to go.''

McCutchen shared a picture of a smiley face on his Instagram account late Monday afternoon but downplayed any correlation between the post and the his status.

''Doesn't have to do with trades, just has to do with life,'' he said. ''Sometimes you look at that and it can always be worse and it's true.''

The Pirates have a $14.75 million team option for McCutchen next season. General manager Neal Huntington said the club will wait until after the World Series before making any sort of decision on McCutchen's future with the only team he's known.

McCutchen entered Tuesday hitting .367 since June 1. His 22 home runs this season - including three in a victory at San Diego on Sunday - have him on pace for a career high. His resurgence has kept the Pirates on the fringe of the playoff race. One he's not quite ready to give up on.

''If everyone does their job individually, we'll do alright as team,'' he said. ''We've done that.''

They'll have to do it without Watson, who has appeared in a major-league high 450 games since making his debut in 2011 and whose departure made McCutchen a bit wistful.

''I've been here the longest and I've seen people come, I've seen people go,'' he said. ''You can look at the rosters (from 2009, 2010), I'm the only one. It's something I'm never used to. It's something that always happens, something I can't control but we have a great group of guys here and just looking forward to going out and being ready to play today.''


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