PITTSBURGH – The Pirates believe they may have answered their need for a thumper in the middle of the batting order this afternoon.
They acquired a third baseman, name of Alvarez. Pedro Alvarez.
Yeah, that one.
The former first-round draft pick was recalled from the Triple-A Indianapolis farm club to take the roster spot of outfielder Alex Presley, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a contusion on his left hand. He will start and bat fifth in the order against the Atlanta Braves tonight.
On Sunday afternoon, general manager Neal Huntington indicated that the move would come at a later date. The revised timetable may an indication that the front office is prepared to stand pat before the trade deadline later this week, in which case Alvarez represents its best chance to upgrade the offense and stay in the Central Division chase. Or it may want to see how he responds for a few days before it decides to make a bolder move. Either way, there is one fewer outfielder on the roster, which means that reserve first baseman Steve Pearce may spend more time there.
“Pedro's biggest challenge is trusting that, when he hits the ball to left-center field, that's his best swing,” Huntington said. “Even (at PNC Park), he's one of the few left-handers who can hit the ball far to left center and doesn't need to hook and pull when he's a good hitter. When he's trying to hook, pull and launch, he's an out.
In his last game, Alvarez had a triple, a single and a walk in four at-bats. He raised his batting average to .365, which Huntington called “misleading” because of several soft hits. More recently, “He has had good at-bats," Huntington reported. "He has done what he needs to do offensively.”
The offense desperately needs the Alvarez of last September, not the one who had a .208 batting average, two home runs and 42 strikeouts before a strained right quadriceps put him on the disabled list two months ago.
“Unfortunately, too often this year, he was trying to hit a nine-mile home run and 34 home runs in one game to get out from underneath (a) .200 (batting average) and get the production that we all were expecting from him," Huntington said. "He's making progress in simplifying himself, realizing that he doesn't need to hit the ball 700 feet and can hit a mistake to left-center into the seats.”
The jury remains out on Alvarez in the field as well.
“He has times when he played very well up here, and there were times when he made some fundamental mistakes that a major league third baseman shouldn't make," Huntington said. "He continues to progress there.”
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Paul Ladewski covers the Pirates for Piratesreport.com and the Ogden Newspapers. Unless otherwise noted, the quotes were obtained first-hand, from industry sources or official Pirates media materials.