MILWAUKEE — Pedro Alvarez made his second career start at first base Saturday, primarily because of the matchup against Brewers right-hander Wily Peralta.
“Basically it’s the fastball, a big arm,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “[We’ll] try and match some power with some power.”
Hurdle said he understands there will be a learning curve, and just wants Alvarez to not try to do too much or make anything more complicated than it needs to be.
“We just hope he keeps it simple. Basically follow your defensive instincts,” Hurdle said. “You know, one step and a dive. If it’s more than that, go to the bag.”
Alvarez is borrowing a teammate’s first-base glove and working on breaking in his own.
“We worked on picks, worked on all those things,” Hurdle said. “At the end of the day you’ve got to get him out there and play the game. The first game, he was excited and anxious because of what it all is. This is the major leagues. You’re asking a guy to go over there and give it a shot, and he’s willing to do that.”
Peralta was the Brewers’ fifth starter out of spring training, but has had a banner season, entering the game with a 15-7 record and 3.27 ERA.
Alvarez entered 2 for 9 in his career against Peralta.
“It’s hard. It’s a power guy. What a great story. I don’t know how many people had a shot at him winning 20 this year out of spring training,” Hurdle said of Peralta.
Catcher Tony Sanchez played first base for Class AAA Indianapolis Friday in part to expand his versatility, but also to give catching prospect Elias Diaz some Class AAA experience behind the plate.
“Could you carry three catchers versus two catchers if one of the catchers can go play another position?” Hurdle said. “[Sanchez is] a right-handed bat that can be utilized much more that way than just as a backup catcher, depending on our catching situation next year.”
Hurdle said it will also enable one of the organization’s “brightest young prospects” to develop at the highest level of the minor leagues.
“He’s had such a strong season in Double-A — receiving, throwing, hitting,” Hurdle said of Diaz. “Throughout the trade talks, the trade deadline talks, this is a guy that every team is obviously aware of. … The reports have really been solid. From work ethic, ability to use eyes and ears, pregame planning, ability to draw up something in the dirt with a pitcher based on what he’s got in the game.”
Diaz hit .328 for Class AA Altoona with a .445 slugging percentage and .823 on base plus slugging percentage.
As a player who was never considered a high-end prospect, his emergence has created a buzz.
“The arm — they all glow about the arm,” Hurdle said. “I’ve seen him a little bit, and I’m not a know-it-all. I’m never surprised when players have success or when they pop. … That’s the beauty of what we do, as well. Maybe this kid wasn’t on anybody’s list. Maybe things you’re looking for right away, they don’t pop for two years or they don’t pop for a year and a half. That’s what makes this sport so interesting for me. If I believed all the things I was told I couldn’t do, I sure as heck wouldn’t be sitting in this chair.”
The Pirates are not surprised some fatigue may have crept into Gregory Polanco’s swing after the long season he has had as a rookie dating to winter ball. Polanco was spelled in right field by Travis Snider Saturday for a fourth consecutive game.
“I’ve played year-round and then gone into a season. It doesn’t matter if you’re young,” Hurdle said. “I was anticipating a little bit of fatigue somewhere along the line just because it was a very fulfilling winter ball season. He was the MVP of the league, won the batting title. You’ve got to do some things, play every game and do some things. Not unexpected and I think this short time down is going to help re-kindle his batteries.”
Snider went 0 for 5 Friday, snapping his 11-game hitting streak.
Jenn Menendez firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez.