06/27/10 4:34 PM ET
A. McCutchen, Meek having All-Star years
By Alex Espinoza / MLB.com
Toting a .288 average and a team-high 10 home runs and 46 RBIs entering Sunday, first baseman Garrett Jones appears to be the most traditional candidate for an All-Star nod.
But when third-base coach Tony Beasley was asked who he thought should represent Pittsburgh at the Midsummer Classic, he offered up two different possibilities: outfielder Andrew McCutchen and reliever Evan Meek.
McCutchen, 23, leads the team with his .300 average, 35 walks and 19 stolen bases, which is the second-highest total in the National League. He also had seven home runs and 23 RBIs heading into Sunday's action, while his 48 runs scored are eighth-best in the NL.
Selected 11th overall by the Pirates in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, McCutchen was long considered one of baseball's best prospects before his Major League debut on June 4, 2009.
Meek, meanwhile, has been a steady presence for the Pirates' pitching staff, which features the second-highest ERA (5.38) in the NL. After Meek gave up a two runs at Texas on Thursday, his ERA rose from 0.66 to 1.07. Still, the 27-year-old right-hander has the fourth-best ERA for an NL reliever with at least 25 innings pitched.
Beasley said Meek's role has been magnified, given he's usually used in tight-game situations.
"He's always in high-pressure situations and he's been pretty dominant all year getting the job done," Beasley said. "With our young guys that are really getting the job done, we feel good if we have a lead late in the ballgame. We really feel good about the bullpen in those situations and they've been good with preserving leads."
Alvarez trying to overcome struggles
OAKLAND -- With comparisons to Evan Longoria and expectations of being the best Pirates prospect since Barry Bonds, Pedro Alvarez certainly had a lot of weight on his shoulders entering his rookie season.
But Alvarez, the second overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, said he hasn't listened to outside influences.
"I try not to pay attention to anything external," Alvarez said. "I hold myself to the highest standard, so anything that's expected of me outside myself holds short to my expectations."
Since making his debut on June 16, the 23-year-old third baseman has struggled at the plate, hitting .114 (4-for-35) with no home runs, five RBIs, two walks and 17 strikeouts. On Sunday, manager John Russell gave Alvarez his first day off, inserting Andy LaRoche into the starting lineup, hitting seventh.
"I don't know what's going on in his mind, but I would have to think that he's probably trying to do a little too much," said Pirates third-base coach Tony Beasley. "But I think he's going to settle down and relax and play the game the way he's capable of playing."
For Alvarez, it's certainly been an adjustment in the big leagues. After excelling for three years at Vanderbilt University and hitting .284 with 40 home runs and 148 RBIs in 192 Minor League games, Alvarez said he's learning how to deal with adversity.
"Every level you go up, you try to make adjustments as quickly as possible," Alvarez said. "I'm very confident in my ability in every aspect of the game up here. Things will improve, I just got to keep working."
As for his defense, both Alvarez and Beasley said they think he's doing well. In 27 chances this season, Alvarez has committed one error. As a Minor Leaguer, Alvarez had a .926 fielding percentage.
"He's been outstanding so far," Beasley said. "He's made some real nice plays, all types of plays: body-control plays, plays to his backhand, to his forehand -- you name it. He's pretty much had it all hit at him and he's responded well. His arm strength is playing fine over there and I've been really impressed with his defense so far."
On Sunday, first-base coach Carlos Garcia hit grounders to Alvarez's backhand side during pregame practice. Russell sat down and talked to Alvarez in the dugout for a few minutes before Sunday's contest.
Alex Espinoza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.