"I'm going to be sliding headfirst this year. I feel like that kind of helps me get there a little quicker, instead of having to pull my momentum back to slide feetfirst. I've done it in the past. I did it in the Minors, and I did it when I was first called up. I stole more bases, and I really don't know what made me stop. I'm just going back to that and will try to get to that next base more."
As Singer notes, McCutchen is aware of risks of sliding headfirst, and in the service of minimizing those risks he's wearing a "protective guard" on his wrists.
While you'd think a manager might not embrace a player's decision to stray from less perilous sliding techniques, Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle is inclined to let his superstar make his own decisions:
"No. 22 does what No. 22 wants, and if that's part of it, he'll figure some things out," Hurdle said. "Some people prefer staying away from it, but it's a baseball play. Andrew will find what he's most comfortable and most effective with."
McCutchen swiped a career-high 33 bases in 2010, but last season he managed just 20 thefts in 32 attempts. Of course, what makes the 26-year-old McCutchen so valuable is his ability to hit .327/.400/.553 while manning a key defensive position, which is what he did last season. And he's still a plus base-runner even if he's not stealing bags at every opportunity.
With all that said, stolen bases achieved at a high rate of success contribute to a player's worth, and McCutchen is surely capable of getting back to that level.
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