04/09/12 7:03 PM ET
West Coast has not been kind to Pirates
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Hurdle to pick spots pinch-hitting for Alvarez
LOS ANGELES -- Long before they completed Sunday's comeback with a walk-off victory over the Phillies, there was already a good feeling on the Pirates' bench: Pedro Alvarez had arrived in the fifth inning, checking in with a long home run for his first hit of the season."Everyone felt better for him," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Everyone is pulling for him, and he knows he has a wealth of support in this clubhouse. There was a lot of excitement when he hit that ball."
Hurdle acknowledges having a fine line to tread with the third baseman.
On one hand, he wants to safeguard Alvarez's confidence by sitting him against the tough left-handers lined up to face the Pirates early this season. Casey McGehee drew the start on Saturday against Cliff Lee, and he again figures to be in the lineup Tuesday night against Clayton Kershaw.On the other, Hurdle doesn't want Alvarez to develop a platoon mentality by going around him too often -- such as when Matt Hague hit for him in the eighth inning Sunday with Philadelphia lefty Antonio Bastardo on the mound. "[Hitting for Pedro] is not a layup in my mind," Hurdle said. "You want to give young men opportunities to improve, to let them build some traction. You want to be an optimist, but you need to be a realist. I don't envision Pedro being a guy who gets pinch-hit for a lot in his career. Initially, to help him get his feet on the ground, we'll pick our spots." "Clint knows if Pedro hits the way he's capable, we'll be a much better offensive ballclub," general manager Neal Huntington said. "The challenge is making sure, by not running him out there against dominant left-handers early, that he doesn't get off to a bad start."
Neal Huntington had no plans to check out in person Charlie Morton's rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Monday night in Columbus -- but thought he might change his mind if the Clippers had a check waiting for him.That was the Pirates GM's tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact the Clippers play in new Huntington Park -- which sits on Neil Street. "I keep waiting for my money. But maybe they're waiting for me to pay," Huntington said. Well, maybe if they got the spelling of the street right. The walk-off wins over the Phillies marked the first time in the live ball (post-1918) era that the Bucs had a pair of walk-offs within the first three games of a season. In 1965, they had two (over the Giants and the Astros, both in 10 innings) within the first four games. The last word: "Two-out runs are the Holy Grail of this sport."
-- Neil Walker, after the Bucs had scored six of their total of seven runs against the Phillies with two outs.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.