San Diego — Andrew McCutchen leaned his crutches against the wall and made a difficult announcement.
“My ACL is torn,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “So I’m out for the season. It’s a sucky dynamic. It’s not the news anyone wanted to hear. It’s not the news I wanted to hear.”
The 32-year-old outfielder suffered the injury in a base-running mishap in the first inning of Monday night’s 8-2 loss to the San Diego Padres.
The injury is a big blow to the Phillies. McCutchen, in his first year with the Phillies, has brought professionalism to the clubhouse, excellent at-bats and on-base skill to the top of the team’s lineup and strong defense to left field. Among major-league leadoff men, he ranks sixth in on-base percentage (.378) and first in runs (45).
McCutchen is the fifth outfielder to be subtracted from the Phillies’ active roster in recent weeks, joining Nick Williams (demoted to Triple A), Odubel Herrera (on administrative leave after a domestic violence charge), Roman Quinn (injured) and Aaron Altherr (designated for assignment).
“Really disappointing,” manager Gabe Kapler said of the news of McCutchen’s loss. “Andrew has not just been a catalyst at the top of our lineup but a catalyst in our clubhouse, somebody that everybody under that roof respects greatly.”
McCutchen’s injury becomes an opportunity for Adam Haseley, the team’s No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft. The 23-year-old outfielder was called up after just six games in Triple A and was in the starting lineup, in center field, on Tuesday night. The Phils were trying to stop a season-high five-game losing streak.
“This is a loss,” Kapler said. “At the same time, it’s an opportunity for Adam Haseley to show us how ready he is to help us and we think he’s ready. Every time you have a disappointing loss you also have an opportunity to improve and an opportunity to meet a bar and step up to a challenge and I think the guys in our clubhouse are prepared for that challenge.”
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s examine some of the questions that the Phillies face in dealing with McCutchen’s loss:
Who leads off?
Cesar Hernandez was in that spot Tuesday night.
“We have some options,” Kapler said. “Bryce (Harper) has hit leadoff in the past. Cesar has been very successful there in the past. Scott (Kingery) has been so good that he should be a consideration at the top of the lineup against some pitching, as well.
“I don’t want to make any declarations right now. Let’s kind of see how it all plays out, let’s see how Cesar performs up there. For a good, solid two months, he was among the best leadoff hitters in baseball last year. He’s not going to be out of his element.”
How much will Haseley play?
“He’s going to have a chance to play regularly,” Kapler said. “He has proven at the minor-league level that he is prepared for this. He has been on fastballs. He is improving defensively. He is not a finished product. There is still work to be done but in order for him to really develop he’s going to need to play up here, play regularly and we’re going to find out how ready he is.”
Will Kingery still play center field?
At times, yes, but he seems to be on his way to supplanting slumping Maikel Franco at third base. He was back at the position Tuesday night.
“Scott will get a look at third base for a little bit,” Kapler said.
Will Bryce Harper get time in center field?
No, Kapler said.
Are there other options in center field?
Yes. Quinn should be back from his groin injury by the end of the month. No one knows what will happen with Herrera, who is currently dealing with more serious off-field matters.
If Haseley proves to be over his head and Kingery needs to stay at third, the Phils will have to go looking for help in center field. Williams is not a centerfielder.
How much will Jay Bruce play?
He was acquired for depth and bench muscle. Now he lines up as McCutchen’s replacement in left field.
Will McCutchen be back next season?
He said he would be. He has two more years left on his three-year, $50 million deal.
Will he have surgery?
Yes, but it has not been scheduled.
What are teammates saying?
“It’s a bummer,” Bryce Harper said. “I think, for us, he’s the top of our lineup. He’s one of our veterans guys who we need each day. But I’m excited to see what Haseley’s going to do. He’s a great player. I’m excited to see him play center field and roam out there a little bit. He’s had a great year in the minor leagues.
“I’m excited to see that next-man-up mentality.”
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