Pirates notebook: Alvarez not ready to play, but can pinch-hit



ST. LOUIS — Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez injured his foot in a 5-2 win Aug. 26 against St. Louis at PNC Park and has not started the past seven games.

Alvarez didn't go on the disabled list, but he has been unavailable and, until Tuesday, his baseball-related activity was limited to hitting off a tee.

Manager Clint Hurdle said Wednesday before the series finale against St. Louis that Alvarez (left foot discomfort) would be available to pinch-hit, but is not yet ready to play in the field.

"He is physically not able to take the field right now," Hurdle said. "He is working hard to try and make some progress.

"Initially, we thought there was a good push, and now it has been in kind of a holding pattern.

"He is now facing live pitching as far as hitting off the coaches and the pitchers and the machines, so he has ramped that up. He is available off the bench to hit."

Alvarez was still just hitting off a tee as late as Monday and not even taking light batting practice.

The Pirates open a weekend series Friday in Chicago, but the pitching matchups might relegate Alvarez to the bench for a while longer.

The Cubs are scheduled to throw three left-handers-- Tsuyoshi Wada, Felix Doubront and Travis Wood -- which means right-handed hitter Gaby Sanchez likely will start at first.

Snider returns

Outfielder Travis Snider (hamstring) was injured Aug. 27 and missed three games before pinch-hitting Monday.

Hurdle said Snider felt good Tuesday and might be ready to return to full-time duty this weekend in Chicago, although as a left-hander, his playing time could be limited by the pitching matchups.

"There is a chance [Snider] will be ready for the weekend," Hurdle said.

Player of month, and MVP?

Third baseman Josh Harrison was hitting a league-leading .313 with 13 home runs and 46 RBIs entering Wednesday's game.

He has played multiple positions, solidified the leadoff spot in the order and, when Alvarez's throwing fell apart, stepped in at third to solidify that position defensively.

Is that the resume of a league MVP?

Hurdle believes so and said that the reigning National League MVP, Andrew McCutchen, agrees with him.

"The guys in this clubhouse are of the opinion that he is our MVP," Hurdle said. "McCutchen has won one of them, and he thinks [Harrison] should be considered for the league MVP. You look at the definition of what an MVP is, he has meant an offensive edge for us, a defensive edge, a base-running edge and in the clubhouse environment with his personality."

Harrison was even named the NL player of the month for August.

Harrison led the league in total bases (71), extra-base hits (19), hits (41) and slugging percentage (.602) last month while tying for third in runs (21) and ranking sixth in hitting with a .347 (41 for 118) batting average. He added nine RBIs and four stolen bases to his monthly totals, while getting on base at a .374 clip. His 41 hits were the most by a Pirate in a single calendar month since McCutchen also had 41 in July 2012.

McCutchen was named the player of the month in June, making this the first time since 1990 the Pirates have had two position players earn the honors.

That year, Bobby Bonilla was player of the month in April and Barry Bonds in July.

Relying on the long ball

The Pirates scored 28 runs in the eight games from Aug. 24 until Tuesday, but only five of them have come as a result of a run-scoring hit (non-home runs) and one was a two-run double, meaning they have only had four non-home-run-scoring hits in that span.

The Pirates have scored 21 runs from home runs and two by sacrifice flies. Hurdle said while it is good they are hitting with power, the best teams grind out runs and string hits together to score.

"The opportunities to drive in runs when you have runners in scoring position is one of those yardsticks where, if you are at the top of the league in that index, you are going to be better off," Hurdle said.

"When you don't meet the demands of the game, you put yourself in position to lose. The ability or inability to score runners from second base and third base with less than two outs is one of the separators in our industry that plays out and gets teams to the postseason."

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


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