CLEARWATER, Fla. — Andrew McCutchen’s quest to be ready for opening day will be unsuccessful as Joe Girardi said Friday afternoon that the Phillies outfielder will require more time in his recovery from last summer’s season-ending knee injury.
The Phillies expect McCutchen, who had surgery last June to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, to be activated off the injured list sometime in April. A return in time for the season — which begins March 26 in Miami — always seemed to be a bit too optimistic as it would have been just nine months after his injury.
“But Cutch is probably still going to tell you, 'Oh, I'm still shooting for Opening Day.' But we don't think it's realistic,” Girardi said. “You see what our guys are going through. They are playing a day, they're off a day, they're playing a day. You just need time to physically get ready and to get 40, 50, 60 at-bats. You just can't run a guy out there for four at-bats every day and say he's going to be ready in 10 days.”
McCutchen said earlier this month when he reported to spring training that he did not have any limitations on his knee. He took batting practice, shagged fly balls, and sprinted. But he has yet to run full speed or cut while running.
“He has made improvements as we’ve gone along. He continues to get better,” Girardi said. “But as we start to put it together, there’s some things, some hurdles that he still has to clear.”
McCutchen’s injury means the Phillies will open their 10th-straight season with a different starter in left field. The likeliest solution would be either Jay Bruce or Roman Quinn in left field with Adam Haseley in center. Bruce has yet to play the field this spring as he builds arm strength following last summer’s forearm injury, but Girardi said he’ll soon be ready.
It also opens up a spot on the five-man bench as one of the reserves will be thrusted into the lineup. The Phillies have corner outfielders Nick Williams and Kyle Garlick on the 40-man roster along with a cast of veterans — including Phil Gosselin, Neil Walker, Josh Harrison, Matt Szczur, Nick Martini and Mikie Mahtook — on minor-league deals.
“There's a lot of guys,” Girardi said. “We have a lot of decisions to make. There are a lot of decisions but those decisions that we have to make, it seems there's a lot of people competing for each one of those jobs.”
McCutchen hit .256 last season with a .834 OPS in 59 games before being injured. It was a solid start to a three-year, $50 million deal until his knee gave out during a rundown in San Diego. The Phillies were in first place when McCutchen was injured, but went 48-55 the rest of the way to finish in fourth. Losing production was a huge blow as the Phillies failed to replace McCutchen at the top of the lineup. Now they have less than four weeks to determine how they’ll replace him for the start of the season.
“I think that had he been ready opening day it would have been pretty quick. He would have been on the short end of the rehab scale,” Girardi said. “But we don’t expect it to be a real long time. Our thought process is we will get him sometime in April. If it was a normal year, the season used to start April 4, 5. But with a high-end athlete like him, he’s just not quite ready to go.”