Pirates could be without reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen for a month

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In a serious blow to Pittsburgh’s playoff chances, the Pirates may be without center fielder, No. 3 hitter, and reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen until September because of an oblique muscle injury.

McCutchen tweaked his oblique muscle Sunday while hitting a sacrifice fly and an unnamed source told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that it looks like a “serious” strain that could knock him out for at least 3-4 weeks.

McCutchen has once again been one of the most valuable players in the league and has actually improved upon last year’s production, hitting .311 with 17 homers, 17 steals, a league-leading 68 walks, and a .949 OPS that tops last year’s mark of .911.

He’s been extremely durable, missing a grand total of 24 games since the beginning of 2010, so the Pirates have never really had to worry about how to replace McCutchen. Assuming that Starling Marte will be cleared to come off the seven-day concussion disabled list he could shift from left field to center field, with Travis Snider manning left field.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.