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05/09/12 11:38 PM ET

Hurdle happy for former student Hamilton

PITTSBURGH -- Josh Hamilton's 2010 batting coach was asked about the Texas outfielder's monster Tuesday game, and it wasn't long before the conversation involved Pedro Alvarez.

It had nothing to do with Clint Hurdle -- Texas' batting coach between managerial gigs in Colorado and here -- intimating the Pirates' third baseman could one day also hit four homers and total 18 bases as Hamilton had in Baltimore the night before.

However, Hurdle incidentally mentioned having worked with Hamilton in the middle of the 2010 season on getting rid of his toe-tap at the plate -- just as he had done with Alvarez earlier this year as Spring Training was winding down.

"Personally, I'm not a fan of the toe-tap," Hurdle said of a popular timing device among batters, "but you've got to be open-minded. [Pedro] liked it. He believed it had a chance to work. But he never got the traction we were looking for, so with a week to go in Spring Training, we decided to go another way."

It took a while for the simplified approach to launch Alvarez. He scuffled through Spring Training (.170, with 22 strikeouts in 53 at-bats) and was hitting .122 three weeks into the season. Since, he has hit .350 with four homers and 10 RBIs in the dozen games leading up to Wednesday and has taken over as the Bucs' cleanup hitter.

Hurdle's Hamilton experience differed in that the hitter himself sought him out for advice as he was coming out of May 2010 with a soft .281 average. Hurdle recommended shedding the toe-tap, convinced him it could be done on-the-fly in midseason, and Hamilton eliminated it that very night. After a hesitant beginning, he wound up that June batting .454 with 31 RBIs in 25 games.

Hurdle sent Hamilton a text message acknowledging his historic night. In it, Hurdle wrote "I thought they outlawed using a tee in the American League."

"He's on fire," Hurdle said. "He's driving balls to the big part of the ballpark. He's so physically strong and gifted. When he gets on a streak, he changes the game dramatically in so many ways. Good for him."

Presley working to find last season's form

PITTSBURGH -- Next time Pirates general manager Neal Huntington cautions against drawing definitive conclusions from a player's current temperature -- because hot streaks and cold spells invariably follow each other -- perhaps he could ask Alex Presley to demonstrate.

Presley was hitting when none of the other Pirates were, carrying a 12-game hitting streak and an average of .303 through April 28. Since then, he's gone 3-for-28, and the left fielder has started only one of the last four games.

Presley has used the time to enroll in batting coach Gregg Ritchie's remedial school of hitting. The Bucs are helping Presley get back to the approach that made him such an on-base threat as a rookie last season, when he batted. 298 in 52 games following his late-June promotion.

"We've re-visited a lot of his at-bats from last year, and the impact he was able to make at the top of the lineup," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Sometimes you get misguided into trying to do something you normally don't. Your job atop the lineup is to get on base."

Presley has drawn three walks in 109 plate appearances, nudging his .250 batting average up to only a .271 on-base percentage.

Worth noting

• First base coach Luis Silverio will accompany Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata on a Thursday visit to La Escuelita Arcoiris, a Spanish-immersion school in Squirrel Hill, Pa. The trio of Pirates will meet with students from 11 a.m.-noon ET.

• Overlooked in the pulsating conclusion of Tuesday night's thriller was that five innings after Garrett Jones had tied him for sixth place for most home runs hit at PNC Park, Adam LaRoche regained sole possession of that perch by hitting his 35th off Joel Hanrahan to give the Nationals a brief 4-3 lead in the ninth inning.

• Since April 21, Pirates pitchers have logged 151 strikeouts in 149 innings.

The Last Word: "That was one of the best trips Searage has made all year." -- Manager Clint Hurdle on pitching coach Ray Searage, whose ninth-inning visit to the mound Wednesday was followed by Joel Hanrahan retiring the final two men with runners on second and third.

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.