CLEARWATER, Fla. – Andrew McCutchen agrees with his Phillies bosses. He needs more time.
"Honestly, I feel like I could play right now if I wanted," he said at Phillies camp Saturday. "But could I play to the best of my ability? Probably not. I need to be me. I need to be Andrew McCutchen when I'm out there on the field. So, we're going to keep putting in the work so that I can be that."
The Phillies ruled out McCutchen for opening day on Friday. The 33-year-old outfielder had surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee on June 14. His recovery isn't far off schedule, but he hasn't passed all the physical tests needed to play at a high level. Manager Joe Girardi said he expects McCutchen back sometime in April.
"We're still moving in the right direction," McCutchen said. "I'm running hard. I'm running 100 percent. It's just a matter of running 100 percent all the time.
"There are a lot of things I'm doing, but other things I still need to do. I haven't gotten in a rundown yet. I haven't pretended like I was at second, then there was a pop up and I had to put the brakes on and turn around and go back to first. There are things like that that I haven't done yet.
"I have to get through these things and see how my body responds to it. You can't put a (timetable) up there because everyone is different, everybody's body responds different. For all anyone knows, three weeks from now I could be, 'I feel great. I'm ready to go.' But it's all about how I respond to everything."
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McCutchen hopes to progress to the point where he plays in a game in spring training.
The Phillies are taking things cautiously with McCutchen because he's vital to the team in left field and in the leadoff spot. They'd rather have five good months of him at 100 percent than risk a setback by having him ready for the March 26 season opener.
Losing McCutchen from the leadoff spot was a huge blow to the Phils last season. He had a .378 on-base percentage, second-best in the majors among leadoff men, when he went down on June 3. Phillies leadoff men had a paltry .295 on-base percentage the rest of the season and that ranked 29th in baseball over that span.
The Phillies have a number of options to fill McCutchen's spot. Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley can both play center field and left field. Jay Bruce, Nick Williams and Kyle Garlick are all on the 40-man roster and capable of playing there. Non-roster players Josh Harrison, Mikie Mahtook, Neil Walker, Phil Gosselin and Nick Martini are also in play.
The Phils' decision to have McCutchen open the season on the injured list came less than two weeks after the player said it was his plan to be ready for the season opener. McCutchen said those comments represented a mindset, that he needed to think that way to get through the monotony of injury rehab.
"You're coming in every single day and doing the same thing," he said. "You have to have a motivation and for me my motivation was telling myself that I will be ready by opening day.
"That's going to be my mindset for the rest of spring training."
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