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: Major League Baseball bans transactions with Mexican League teams

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that Major League Baseball has banned all transactions with Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB), popularly known as the Mexican League. As of now, all 30 teams are prohibited from signing players under contract with LMB teams. The ban was issued due to Major League Baseball’s contention that “corruption” and “fraud” run rampant in the player acquisition process.

Passan describes the issues in detail, and they sound pretty compelling. The upshot: LMB clubs — which have full control over their players — are taking advantage of them, taking most if not all of the signing bonuses MLB teams give them after negotiating for their rights. Mexican teams often sign players when they’re 15 years-old so that, once they are old enough for American teams to approach them, they’re in the position to take a usurious cut.

Passan says Major League Baseball is demanding greater transparency from LMB before it’s willing to lift the ban. He also says that the MLBPA is in “lockstep” with Major League Baseball on the matter, which makes sense given that, if MLB’s claims are accurate, players are being exploited here. He also says that if LMB does not change its ways, there is a “Plan B,” though it’s not clear what that is.

There aren’t a ton of Mexican players signed by MLB teams each year, but there are enough to make this a significant issue that is worth watching.