Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates

Pirates not concerned with Andrew McCutchen’s early struggles

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Andrew McCutchen was batting just 9-for-41 (.220) over the first 11 games of the season, all of the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle moved him back to the leadoff spot last night against the Reds in an effort to shake things up, but McCutchen went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.

Still, Hurdle tells Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com that he was encouraged with what he saw from his talented young center fielder.

“I thought he was tracking the ball better,” Hurdle said. “He didn’t get too big. They did pitch him pretty effectively, as well. I’m hoping that will spark him a little bit. I think it will.”

“It’s funny how certain things will spark someone,” Hurdle said. “If nothing else, the ire of going 0-for-5 with four punchouts, that can light a fuse, too. He’s got a lot of professional pride, and I expect this thing to turn around sooner rather than later.”

McCutchen has been just as patient as ever in a small sample size so far this season (6/8 K/BB ratio), but his batting average on balls in play has been way down (.194) compared to his career average (.313). Some of this is bad luck, sure, but McCutchen has also hit less line drives and more fly balls (and infield fly balls), potentially because he was trying to do too much as a run producer. Hopefully putting him back in the leadoff spot will get him back to what makes him such a dynamic player.

Report: Braves sign Kurt Suzuki

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 20: Kurt Suzuki #8 of the Minnesota Twins hits against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Braves reportedly have a deal in place with free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that the contract is for one year, $1.5 million with up to $2.5 million in additional incentives.

Suzuki, 33, completed a three-year track with the Twins in 2016, slashing .258/.301/.403 with eight home runs in 373 PA. The veteran backstop likely won’t provide an offensive or defensive upgrade over current starter Tyler Flowers, but should give the Braves some depth at a position they’ve been looking to strengthen since the start of the offseason.

The team has yet to confirm the deal.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.