McCutchen has his power back

Photo by AP. Andrew McCutchen homered for the third time in four games during Thursday's loss to the Yankees.

BRADENTON, Fla. (TNS) – After launching a mammoth home run that cleared the left-field bleachers at Ed Smith Stadium on Wednesday, Andrew McCutchen opened up a bit Thursday about the left knee injury that hobbled him last spring and slowed him early in the season.

“Got my power back. Got my legs back,” McCutchen said. “It’s just about using them now.”

He used them again later in the day as he homered again in the Pirates’ 7-2 loss to the New York Yankees.

Despite telling reporters a year ago that his sore knee didn’t contribute to his bad April, a month in which he batted .194, McCutchen says now that he wasn’t able to do much lower-body weight training during the course of the season.

“I couldn’t do what I wanted to do,” he said. “I couldn’t prepare how I wanted to prepare. I had to compensate for certain things. That’s all that (April) was. But my body is in good shape, so I’m in good shape. Don’t have to worry about it now. As long as you feel good, you go out there and play good. I had to overcome some adversity last year, but that’s last year.”

McCutchen finished the 2015 season with a .292 average and .401 on-base percentage and was fourth in National League MVP voting.

McCutchen opted not to reveal the official diagnosis – “It hurt,” he said. “That’s all I can tell you” – but described the injury as “constant, consistent” soreness.

After an offseason at full strength in which he focused on lower-body weight lifting, McCutchen is 6 for 22 at the plate this spring, including two monster home runs, entering Thursday’s game against the Yankees. He then homered in his first at-bat.

“I feel pretty strong, as you can see,” he said. “I feel good.”