Pirates notebook: Hurdle says Alvarez is worth an All-Star spot

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The idea of Pedro Alvarez, who leads all third basemen in errors and has spent most of the year fighting an uphill battle to get to a .240 batting average, as an All-Star might sound crazy to some - but not to Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

In fact, Hurdle said when Alvarez's power numbers are weighed against other starting third baseman in the National League there is a case to be made that he deserves to be on the team.

"I believe when you look at the field of third basemen who are in play, that if you are looking for another two to add to the club [in addition to the starter], you'd like to have a guy who can come off the bench and change the direction of the game with one swing of the bat," Hurdle said. "I would think he would be as opportunistic and important to have as anybody."

The key to Alvarez making the team is obviously his power numbers, which really do stand out among the third basemen he is measured against.

Mets third baseman David Wright (14 home runs, 43 RBIs) has a sizeable lead in All-Star Game voting and likely will be the starter - and even he doesn't have the power numbers Alvarez (21 home runs, 56 RBIs) has.

But taking Wright -- who leads the position in batting average, on-base percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage - out of the equation, Alvarez has more than double the home runs of the next third baseman (Cincinnati's Todd Frazier has 10) and none of the others are within 10 RBIs of him (Washington's Ryan Zimmerman has 44).

Alvarez, along with Wright and Zimmerman, is one of only three NL third basemen with an on-base plus slugging percentage higher than .800, and Wright is the only other with a slugging percentage higher than .500.

Alvarez leads the NL with 15 errors, but Zimmerman has 14 and Wright has 8.

"Pedro falls in that different category because you look at the entire first half and there has been pieces," Hurdle said. "There was a stretch in the month of June, but if you look at the overall numbers, you say, 'Yeah, that's good stuff.'?"

Burnett could start Sunday

Hurdle said the starter Sunday in Chicago has not yet been determined but there is a chance A.J. Burnett could get the nod.

Burnett has been on the disabled list since June 13 (retroactive to June 9) with a right calf strain but is closing in on the end of his rehabilitation and was set to throw a bullpen session Thursday.

"We have all kinds of candidates [to start Sunday] but at least two jump in my mind," Hurdle said. "A.J. is going to go throw his second bullpen and we will have a conversation with him, so that is a possibility, and Jeanmar Gomez is a possibility."

Father's Day, Round 2

This weekend is the annual father/son trip when the players and coaching staff get to bring their dads on the road trip to Chicago.

Hurdle said it is something he started when he was in Colorado and is very popular.

"I think it is great, I am real pleased with the guys who are able to move upon it and bring their fathers," Hurdle said. "So dads are pumped, but [Jason] Grilli's dad [former major league pitcher Steve Grilli] will try to sneak into the bullpen. And we have big Tom [Walker, former major leaguer and father of Neil Walker], so we have a couple of pros with us."

He's still Hamels

Cole Hamels was the 2008 World Series and NLCS MVP and is a three-time All-Star, but he has had a rough season. He entered the game Thursday 2-11 with a 4.58 ERA.

But before the game, Hurdle said nobody in the clubhouse was taking Hamels lightly because he is still one of the elite pitchers in the game.

"What makes him dangerous is the experience he has had, the games that he has won, the skill set that he has," Hurdle said. "I think that it would be hard for [the Phillies] not to feel good when he is on the mound no matter what is going on, because he has the ability to shut down the other team."

Hamels showed the stuff Hurdle was talking about as he pitched seven innings, gave up only five hits and two runs (one earned) and struck out eight to earn his third win of the season.

Big crowd, big advantage

The Pirates had another big crowd Thursday (35,328), the ninth consecutive home game they had more than 30,000 fans.

"There is a vibe in this ballpark when it is unique and I have been in a lot of ballparks" Hurdle said. "This is blue-collar intimate, this is Pittsburgh and these people are grinding right there with us, they are vocal and they know the game. We feel it, we are appreciative of it, we feel we have a home-field advantage when this place is full."

pirates

Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.


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