4/17/2013 10:39 P.M. ET
Alvarez struggling through a sluggish start
By George Von Benko / Special to MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Pedro Alvarez entered Wednesday's action 3-for-41 for the season. On Tuesday night the third baseman, who went into that contest hitting .073 and in an 0-for-8 skid, drove home a run with a first-inning hit, but that was washed away when the game was postponed due to inclement weather.
Alvarez has had slow starts before. Last year he batted .203 in April and .207 in May before finishing the season hitting .244 with 30 home runs and 85 RBIs. But the lack of power is alarming: Through the first 14 games, he doesn't have an extra-base hit. He went 0-for-3 on Monday against the Cardinals and 1-for-4 with an RBI single in Wednesday's series finale.
"Until Monday night's game -- I thought there was a little backslide there -- I thought the at-bats were cleaning up," said manager Clint Hurdle. "He had a walk in every game and was seeing more pitches; there weren't the early chases down and out of the zone. I thought we were getting some traction, [but on] Monday night we seemed to take a step back the other way.
"Alvarez has not overanalyzed things. He has continued to work with [hitting coach] Jay Bell and also works with some of the players that have known him longer than I, whether it be Neil Walker or Andrew McCutchen -- we've encouraged some of that as well. He doesn't like it. Nobody likes it when he doesn't get out of the blocks very clean, [and] this is another year where that's happened.
"It's frustrating for him. Until Monday night I didn't see any of that, and on the other side of the ball his defense has been very, very good. We'll see."
Burnett notches milestone with 2,000 Ks
PITTSBURGH -- Veteran right-hander A.J. Burnett notched career strikeout No. 2,000 on Wednesday night at PNC Park.
The historic punchout occurred in the top of the second inning, when Cards outfielder Carlos Beltran was called out on strikes.
Burnett entered the game averaging a Major League-leading 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings. His 27 strikeouts in his first three starts were the most by a Pirates pitcher to begin a season since Jose Deleon whiffed 28 in 1985.
Burnett ranks fourth among all active pitchers in strikeouts, trailing only the Yankees' Andy Pettitte (2,327) and CC Sabathia (2,232), and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay (2,080).
Wandy on track to make Friday start
PITTSBURGH -- Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez threw a bullpen session on Wednesday to test his tender left hamstring.
Manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage reported that everything went well and that Rodriguez had no issues. He will start as scheduled on Friday against the Braves.
Rodriguez left the April 8 game in Arizona after just 21/3 innings when he injured the hamstring. In two starts he's allowed one run over nine innings.
Prospect Bell excited about resuming career
PITTSBURGH -- Heralded outfielder Josh Bell, the No. 2 pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and the Pirates' sixth-best prospect as ranked by MLB.com, is restarting his pro career at Class A West Virginia after losing most of 2012 to an early-season knee injury.
"I feel great. It's good to be back," Bell said. "The body feels good, and I'm just excited for the season."
Bell played just 15 games at West Virginia in 2012 before the injury. The Pirates signed him out of high school in 2011 for $5 million, a record for a second-round Draft pick.
Bell has gotten off to a decent start, hitting .280 with one home run and 14 RBIs through his first 11 games.
"I think last year I started off kind of slow," Bell said. "But things changed this year a little bit more in my legs and the ball is flying right now, so I feel good about that."
General manager Neal Huntington indicated that the Pirates are not opposed to promoting Bell to Class A Bradenton this season if his play indicates he is ready.
Triple-A players have altercation with fans
PITTSBURGH -- According to reports, fans in Toledo angered one or more Indianapolis Indians players on Tuesday night by throwing things at them, and at one point Jerry Sands attempted to climb over a railing before being restrained by teammate Brandon Inge.
Sands received a one-game suspension.
The Indians were in Toledo to play the Mud Hens. A brief story in the Toledo Blade, citing eyewitnesses, said that a fan had been throwing peanuts at Inge -- a former Tiger and Mud Hen -- early in the game but that things escalated:
General manager Neal Huntington released the following statement about the incident: "Last night in Toledo, there was a verbal dispute between a fan and Jerry Sands, during which Jerry briefly entered into the stands. The situation was quickly resolved without further incident, as the fan was ejected for his actions.
"We do not condone Jerry's actions and support the league's decision to suspend him for one game."
• Top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon had a very good outing on Wednesday afternoon pitching for Double-A Altoona. Taillon tossed seven innings and allowed no runs on two hits. He recorded six strikeouts and issued three walks while lowering his ERA to 1.00 in a 4-3 win over Richmond. The Curve won the first game of the doubleheader, 2-1, in 11 innings.
• West Virginia Power first baseman Stetson Allie went 4-for-5 on Tuesday night and hit his South Atlantic League-leading sixth home run. Allie leads all of Minor League baseball in RBIs, with 18, and is hitting .411 in his first 13 games. He was named the South Atlantic League Player of the Week earlier this month.
George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.