Pirates Notebook: Alvarez could ascend 'quickly'
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No one benefits more from all the Pirates' recent trades and draft signings, including that of Pedro Alvarez, than director of player development Kyle Stark: A top-10 prospect list Stark might have penned a month ago would have as many as seven or eight new names now.
"No question, it's been nice," he said yesterday by phone from Lynchburg, Va. "I think everyone has realized this year that we need more talent, and we're right now in the mode of trying to accumulate as much as we can."
INDIANAPOLIS (61-68) beat Durham, 12-5. RHP Daniel McCutchen (5-8, 4.04) allowed five runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. RHP Evan Meek (2.60) pitched 1 1/3 innings of perfect relief with a strikeout. RF Jose Bautista (.375) hit his first home run, a two-run shot, and went 3 for 4 with a double, a walk and four RBIs. CF Andrew McCutchen (.280) went 3 for 5 with an RBI. SS Brian Bixler (.283) went 3 for 4 with a double, an RBI and two steals. 3B Neil Walker (.237) went 2 for 5.
ALTOONA (58-71) won at New Hampshire, 5-4. RHP Yoslan Herrera (5-9, 3.45) allowed two runs and nine hits in five innings. CF Jose Tabata (.261) went 1 for 3 with a walk, with his single sparking a four-run rally in the ninth.
LYNCHBURG (49-77) lost to Winston-Salem, 6-5, in 10 innings. RHP Matt McSwain (0-2, 6.66) allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings. RF James Barkdale (.258) went 3 for 4 with a double.
HICKORY (46-80) lost to Kannapolis, 14-6. RHP Duke Welker (3-12, 5.67) allowed four runs and six hits in two innings. CF Keanon Simon (.231) went 4 for 5 with two doubles and an RBI.
STATE COLLEGE (11-45) lost to Williamsport, 4-3. RHP Carlos Amaro (, 3.06) allowed two runs and four hits in five innings. DH Quincy Latimore (.262) went 3 for 5 with a double.
BRADENTON (32-16) beat the Reds, 4-2. RHP Emilis Guerrero (1-0, 1.13) pitched six scoreless innings and allowed four hits. RF Victor Sanchez (.315) went 3 for 5 with a steal.
More still is needed, as Stark and others acknowledge, but the challenge begins immediately in carving career paths for the sudden infusion of premier talent. And the top priority in that area is Alvarez, the system's instant No. 1 on that prospect list.
Take the most prominent recent example of an elite third baseman: The Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria started out in low Class A but lasted only eight games there, 28 in high Class A before 131 in Class AA. He spent 136 in Class AAA, but the last 25 of those -- to start this season -- clearly were unnecessary. The Rays simply wanted to keep him from having a full year of major league service time to retain his rights longer.
"You just have to look at the player himself," Stark said. "You do look at decisions around baseball, always, but we have to look at Pedro Alvarez, not at Longoria or Matt Wieters or Ryan Zimmerman. Those guys did perform at a level where they've moved quickly. But Pedro Alvarez is going to be his own guy. We've got to give him what he needs for his skill set. But I think he can be challenged pretty quickly."
As for having too many prospects at one position, Stark cited Jordy Mercer and Chase D'Arnaud, the Pirates' Nos. 3 and 4 picks in the June draft, the former placed with Class A Hickory, the other with short-season State College.
"Obviously, there are some challenges because you've got to figure out who fits where, but they're good challenges to have," Stark said. "I know some people have made a big deal out of having Andy LaRoche, Neil Walker and Alvarez all at third base. Well, you know what? We have to find a way where all three can be part of this. The biggest thing is making sure they all get their opportunities."
The most likely offseason destination for Alvarez, beyond September in the Florida Instructional League, is the Arizona Fall League. Even though that league requires players to have Class AA experience, an exemption is made for one Class A player so long as that player is on a Class A roster by Aug. 6. Alvarez will have that status in terms of paperwork.
Hawaii also has a winter league, but a lower level of competition, and the Pirates are not looking that way.
Two weeks from today, the Pirates will be allowed to make their September callups and, while no firm decisions have been made, it is becoming clearer who some of those will be:
Among pitchers, Tom Gorzelanny, Ross Ohlendorf and Matt Capps will be added for certain, possibly before then. Gorzelanny, who has pitched quite well of late, could be up sooner. Capps pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings for Class AAA Indianapolis yesterday -- no hits, a strikeout and three walks -- and will have another outing Tuesday for Class AA Altoona, after which he could join the Pirates this coming weekend in Milwaukee.
Among position players, outfielder Nyjer Morgan has been Indianapolis' best player for a month and is a virtual lock. Ronny Paulino surely will return, too, as a third catcher always is part of the September mix. Infielders Jose Bautista and Brian Bixler also are likely, though neither certain.
"We're not going to flood the roster," general manager Neal Huntington said.
The 40-man roster is full, and management apparently prefers not to tinker with it to add other players.
• Andy LaRoche committed two errors on ground balls yesterday, giving him four in 12 games with the Pirates. But third base coach and infield instructor Tony Beasley absolved him: "Those were not routine plays. This is a good third baseman."
• Huntington expressed some disappointment with Zach Duke -- "Clearly, hitters are squaring up on his pitches, and that's something he and Jeff Andrews are working on," he said -- but gave no indication Duke will come out of the rotation.
• The sellout crowd of 36,483 was the Pirates' eighth of the season. It was the largest on a Sunday since June 22, 2003, when the Cleveland Indians were in town.
First Published August 18, 2008 12:00 am