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The Pirates believe Andrew McCutchen can help them in 2024 after recovery from Achilles injury

Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen celebrates as he stands on second base after driving in a run with a double off Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Corbin Burnes during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Monday, Sept. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Andrew McCutchen wants to keep playing in Pittsburgh. Pirates general manager Ben Cherington is confident it will happen.

Cherington said Wednesday he believes McCutchen will be able to “help us” in 2024 after he recovers from a partially torn Achilles tendon in his left foot that cut short his homecoming season.

The 36-year-old McCutchen, who is sitting on 299 career home runs, is scheduled to be a free agent in the offseason after signing a one-year deal to return to Pittsburgh last winter. The five-time All-Star and 2013 NL MVP made it very clear he wants to finish his career with the Pirates and said last week “it’s not going to feel right anywhere else.”

Pittsburgh is in the midst of a massive youth movement designed to return the franchise to contention. McCutchen, who hit .256 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs in 112 games primarily as a designated hitter, provides a veteran voice who knows what it's like to win in Pittsburgh after helping the franchise to three straight playoff berths from 2013-15.

While he lamented a dip in his power numbers, he surpassed 2,000 career hits earlier in the year and posted a .378 on-base percentage.

“(His approach) has helped our lineup,” Cherington said. "It’s helped us and I don’t see any particular reason why that can’t continue.”

McCutchen is expected to fully recover from the Achilles injury, which he sustained while legging out a double against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sept. 4. He is scheduled to meet with a specialist on Friday but the team does not believe McCutchen will need surgery, meaning he should be ready by the start of spring training.

The Pirates have benefited on the field and at the gate with McCutchen's familiar No. 22 back in the fold. Pittsburgh entered Wednesday averaging 19,898 fans at PNC Park, more than 4,300 more than the club averaged in 2022.

Cherington said he's “not the right person to ask” about McCutchen's impact on the business side but added the emotional impact of McCutchen's comeback could not be overstated.

“Every time he came up to the plate it was kind of a different sound than (when) some other guys come up to the plate,” he said. "So I think in that sense it’s obvious to all of us that it means something and hopefully there’s a lot more good moments out there with him.”

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