CIN@PIT: McCutchen grounds a RBI single to left field

ATLANTA -- Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen was absent from the lineup for Monday's series opener against the Braves, just the star center fielder's third off-day of the season. To justify that decision, manager Clint Hurdle provided a straightforward answer with some high-tech context.

"He's been running around a lot," Hurdle said. "We have a way of measuring the distance our players cover on the ground all day. We found out that at this point last year -- I know there's two more games, a few less days -- but actually, his activity has spiked from where it was last year, which was a lot last year."

The organization started tracking the mileage of their players last year, and Hurdle touted the technology's usefulness as a barometer for the work each player puts in over the course of a game. As would be expected, the center fielder typically covers the most ground.

"Last year, [McCutchen] was having probably more of an upside on offense as far as running the bases from an offensive standpoint," Hurdle said. "So you might think he put in more time last year compared to this year and it's not, it's actually flipped. So that means maybe he's running down a lot of balls? I don't know. But we gotta be mindful of how much ground he is covering. We've actually hand-picked some days. We picked this day a while ago."

Pirates reliever Reid picks Gattis' nickname

Evan Gattis as a secret agent

ATLANTA -- New Pirates reliever Ryan Reid knows all about Braves slugger Evan Gattis, who has rocketed to legendary status in his first two months in Atlanta with his titanic swings and entirely appropriate nickname: "El Oso Blanco," -- "The White Bear."

The two played together this past offseason for Aguilas del Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League, where Gattis tied for the league lead with 16 home runs and earned his now-famous moniker. In fact, Reid was the one who helped the nickname take off after riding home with Gattis one day.

"I know probably 50-60 percent Spanish at some point, playing in Venezuela for two years," Reid said. "I was talking with a taxi driver, we were heading back from the field, and somehow, 'Oso blanco' came up -- white bear, polar bear, oso polar -- and sure enough, it stuck. Me and some of the other Americans got it going with the Latinos, and it took off."

Gattis, who led the league with a .595 slugging percentage in 53 games in Venezuela, was able to corroborate Reid's role in popularizing the name.

"I think he would be the one to credit," Gattis said. "We were in a cab together and he knows a little more Spanish than I do. So he knew what they were talking about on the [CB] radio more than I did. The cab driver said, 'Do you know El Oso Blanco?' and he was like, 'It must be this guy.' Then after that, he worked to spread it."

This week, the Pirates are getting their second look at Gattis, who certainly left his impression in the Braves' mid-April trip to Pittsburgh. Pinch-hitting in the eighth inning of a tie game on April 18, Gattis took reliever Jared Hughes deep to left for a two-run home run that held up as the game-winner. It went down as just another chapter in the rookie's torrid big league debut, which has earned him National League Rookie of the Month honors for both April and May.

"He should have had 20 homers in Venezuela," Reid said. "He hit probably 10 other balls that would've left any other stadium but the stadium we played in. The wind blows in, and it's the biggest field there. Everybody says it's not a hitter's park, and him and [Braves prospect Ernesto Mejia] were going back and forth just launching balls that would've gone out anywhere else."

Called up to the Majors for the first time on Monday to shore up a Pittsburgh bullpen that has been plenty busy in the past week, Reid already knows well what pitchers around the league have quickly learned about Gattis: He punishes mistakes in dramatic fashion.

"He's a man-child," Reid said. "Great guy. He's talented and you gotta execute against him. I've been watching plenty of games on TV."

Worth noting

• Both Hurdle and Pirates starter Jeanmar Gomez were encouraged by the news that an examination of the pitcher's right arm found no ligament damage. Gomez was forced to leave his start after just one inning on Sunday with forearm tightness, and on Monday, Gomez was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an inflamed and strained right forearm.

"We'll shut him down for a few days," Hurdle said. He's actually going to fly back here and join us tomorrow, won't throw for we'll see how many days. It could be three, could be four, flat-ground, bullpen. This will give us an opportunity to get him out on a rehab where he can pitch in an environment, where if there's a problem, it could not be as challenging as trying to get him back engaged here."

• Charlie Morton threw 86 pitches over 4 2/3 innings in his rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday. Morton retired nine batters in three or fewer pitches, although he did see six different three-ball counts.

"The fastball command was better, the two-seamer came into play very well, the four-seam fastball was spotted up for strikes. He used the inside," Hurdle said. "It was definitely a step forward for his focus and command from where he had been."

The right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery last June and saw his rehab temporarily stalled by shoulder soreness in early May.