PITTSBURGH - Andrew McCutchen says he will be back in the Pittsburgh Pirates' lineup tonight.
McCutchen pronounced himself ready to go after an extensive pre-game workout on Monday. He said he will be ready to play tonight's 7:05 game against Atlanta on the first day he's eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list.
"Right now I feel great," McCutchen said. "I don't feel any pain."
McCutchen has taken batting practice and run the bases with no problem. To ramp up his test, the Pirates brought Curve pitcher Jeff Inman to PNC Park to throw his batting practice and simulate game-level pitching.
"It's live pitching, velocity and spin," Hurdle said. "We feel optimistic."
McCutchen hasn't played since he sustained a left rib cage injury on a swing during the Aug. 10 game at Arizona.
One concession to the injury is McCutchen will wear a special compression top that will offer extra protection for the rest of the season.
He was encouraged after Monday's work.
"I pretty much did everything," McCutchen said. "Swing and miss, check swing, foul balls off. None of it seemed to bother me. I felt fine the whole time."
McCutchen was on a 5-for-9 streak at the time he was forced out of the lineup. Prior to that, though, he had been in a 4-for-33 slump that dropped his average from .320 to .305.
In his absence, Starling Marte has been playing center field with Travis Snider and Josh Harrison handling left field.
Pedro Alvarez finally made his first career start at first base in Monday's game.
The plan had been to use Alvarez at first during the series in Washington. That had to be abandoned, though, when shortstop Jordy Mercer was sidelined with a forearm injury. In his absence, Harrison played shortstop instead of replacing Alvarez at third base.
Alvarez didn't look especially comfortable at first, at time feeling for the bag and looking awkward with his footwork.
The position change was necessitated by Alvarez's ongoing problems with making throws from third base.
With Alvarez moving to first, Brent Morel started at third. Harrison played shortstop.
Mercer took batting practice on Sunday in Washington.
Hurdle indicated that Mercer could have come off the bench if needed, but isn't ready to start.
Meanwhile, it appears the Pirates have advanced Clint Barmes' rehab program, moving him to Class AAA Indianapolis to play seven innings. Barmes has missed six weeks with a groin injury.
"Everything has gone well," Hurdle said of Barmes. "He's up and running."
Hurdle likened the team's 0-5 trip to Detroit and Washington to a root canal.
He did point out that the Pirates had the lead in the sixth inning or later in three of the five games.
The players didn't have to report until 4 o'clock on Monday, and many of them took advantage of that.
"Just give them a couple of extra hours at home," Hurdle said.
The homestand consists of just the three-game series with Atlanta. The Pirates leave for a weekend series in Milwaukee on Thursday's open date.
On the 80th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's birth, the Pirates had the grounds crew mow his No. 21 into the right field grass.
SUBHEAD: Gray dies
Elmer Gray, who served the Pirates as scouting director in the 1980s, died Monday after a long illness. He was 91.
Gray, a Pittsburgh native, broke into scouting with the St. Louis Browns, and spent much of his career working for the Cincinnati Reds. He joined the Pirates as scouting director in 1984. During his tenure, the Pirates drafted Barry Bonds, Jeff King and Moises Alou.
Gray discovered Donora, PA's Ken Griffey, Sr. for the Reds, who picked him on the 29th round of the 1969 draft.
Gray continued to serve as a part-time scout after his 1994 retirement from the Pirates. He was honored with the Pride of the Pirates award in 2008. Until his health failed this year, he was a regular visitor to PNC Park.