A year ago today, third baseman Pedro Alvarez was exactly two months into his first stint in the big leagues and was beginning to light it up.
He had an RBI in seven straight games (11 total) from Aug. 4 through Aug. 11, the longest streak by a Pittsburgh rookie since Frank Coleman in 1944 (eight games) and the longest by a Pirates player since Jason Bay in 2005 (seven in a row).
But that was nothing compared to what he did in September, batting .467 during an 11-game hitting streak from Sept. 21 through the 27th. He was named the National League Player of the Week for the 20th through the 27th after hitting .417 (10-for-24) with three home runs and 13 RBI in six games and was then voted NL Rookie of the Month for September.
Today, Alvarez was optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis for the second time this season. The first was on July 9 after he came off the disabled list with a quadriceps injury. This time was to make room on the active roster for outfielder Jose Tabata, who came off the DL.
“Pedro’s a big part of our future,” general manager Neal Huntington said today. “We brought him up – and we acknowledged it before – maybe ideally before he was ready, but we felt like it was a very different scenario from rushing a prospect from Double-A because he’s your best available option. In Pedro’s case he’s had success up here last August, last September. We felt like we had a chance to get him going in Triple-A, he wasn’t quite where we wanted him to be, we thought it was a worthwhile risk and it didn’t happen. Didn’t work. … Pedro’s not the first guy who’s had to go back to the minor leagues and he won’t be the last. Catch a breath, make some adjustments. Pedro’s still a big part of our future and we’re still excited about where he is. He just hit a little bump in the road.”
Alvarez was hitting .208 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 36 games when he went to Indy the first time. After performing well there, he was back in the majors on July 24 but hit just 12-for-69 in 20 games with two doubles, one home run, five RBI, four walks and 25 strikeouts.
The plan for now, Huntington said, is to keep Alvarez in Indianapolis through the end of their season on Sept. 5. They’ll see where he’s at then in terms of September call-ups, and also will discuss whether playing winter ball will be an option.
One thing Huntington re-emphasized was that Alvarez’s struggles this year are not from lack of interest or caring.
“We expect he’s going to go down and do everything he needs to do,” Huntington said. “He cares; he wants to be a great player. He wants to be the Hall of Fame-caliber third baseman that everyone thinks he had a chance to be coming out or Vanderbilt, or be a cornerstone-type player. He wants to be great. Sometimes he puts too much pressure on himself and gets away from what allows him to be successful and tries to do too much. We just have to get him to settle back in and be what he can be.”
Here are tonight’s lineups:
Pirates — Tabata 7, Paul 9, McCutchen 8, Doumit 2, Walker 4, Jones 3, Cedeno 6, Harrison 5, Karstens 1
Cardinals — Jay 8, Furcal 6, Pujols 3, Holliday 7, Berkman 9, Freese 5, Schumaker 4, Laird 2, Carpenter 1