National League All-Star third basemen Pedro Alvarez and David Wright greet each other before the Pirates' 3-2 win Friday night.
By Mike Vernon Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
David Wright wanted to apologize -- so he sent a text.
The recipient: Pedro Alvarez.
In the first part of the text, Wright acknowledged not selecting Alvarez in the initial group of Home Run Derby participants.
"Hey look, I apologize I couldn't include you in the first round," Wright remembers texting. "You're well deserving. I wish I could've brought four guys."
The second part of the message is how Wright made up for not initially inviting Alvarez.
"He extended the invitation, and I gladly accepted," Alvarez said.
Pirates fans weren't as easy to forgive and forget. Before a pitch was thrown Friday night, fans loudly let David Wright know how the felt about his Home Run Derby decision. When Wright's name was announced in the starting lineup "boos" echoed through PNC Park. An Alvarez home run in the first inning only helped to encourage their angst.
Wright learned Wednesday night that Carlos Gonzalez, the National League home run leader, wouldn't be able to participate because of a sprained right middle finger. Wright, the National League captain, picked Alvarez as his replacement.
Along with Gonzalez, Wright picked Bryce Harper, who "overwhelmingly" led a fan vote to be a participant, even though he's tied for 19th in the NL in home runs with 13, and Michael Cuddyer, Wright's friend who has hit 15 home runs this season.
Alvarez, and Philadelphia outfielder Domonic Brown, who is third in the league with 23 home runs, were initially left out of the contest.
Wright said the justification for his decision was simple. He took the league leader in Gonzalez. He took the fan choice in Harper. And he took Cuddyer as his third and final pick. Wright and Cuddyer are from Norfolk, Va.
"My third choice has a lot to do with the way I feel personally with Michael as a player, as a friend," Wright said. "Whether people agree or disagree with that, it's my choice.
"No matter what you do there's going to be somebody that's unhappy. There's going to be a city that's unhappy."
Wright said he felt a lot of pressure with the decision and made a list to choose the three other NL representatives. Alvarez was near the top of his list but didn't quite make the first cut.
Without wishing any ill will on any of his picks, Wright said he was almost glad Gonzalez couldn't participate so he could extend the invitation to Alvarez.
When it came down to Alvarez or Brown, it only helped Alvarez's case that he's a New York native and would be able to participate in front of his friends and family. Alvarez's resume, Wright said, also was helped by his home run total.
With short notice, Alvarez said that he has yet to come up with any strategy for the Derby.
"I wasn't planning on doing it, so it's just like batting practice, I guess," he said.
As for the concerns that a Home Run Derby can interfere with a player's swing, manager Clint Hurdle doesn't think it will be an issue. Hurdle is just excited for Alvarez to have the opportunity to show off his skill to a national audience.
Hurdle plans to tell Alvarez not to set any expectations and to enjoy the experience, rather than his stress over his performance.
"It could be a once-in-a-lifetime deal," Hurdle said. "Embrace it."
As for Wright, he understood how much the selection meant to Alvarez after his text conversation with him. Wright has had to deal with the tricky situation of choosing three of his peers to compete in the fun event, and now, with a roster seemingly set, he can just enjoy the event as well.
"After talking to him, I knew how excited he was," Wright said. "[With Alvarez] being from New York, I think it was an excellent choice to pat myself on the back."