BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Infielder Pedro Alvarez #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City on February 26, 2012 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
No one hit much at all as the Pirates' were two-hit in a 4-1 loss to the Orioles Monday, but Pedro Alvarez returned from his knee injury and looked terrible, and the game was televised, so expect most of the chatter about the game to be about that. Let's start there.
-P- Alvarez went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a weak grounder to first. One of the strikeouts was complete silliness (the umpire totally blew a call on a 3-2 count, as replay clearly showed "strike three" going past Alvarez's chest), but Alvarez got into awful counts on the other two at-bats and earned the results he got.
As I've said before, it's hard to second-guess the front office when it comes to Alvarez. I don't think it's at all likely, but maybe he'll snap out of the funk he's in just as the season starts and make us forget all this. And there may be psychological factors in play that the front office knows about but that we don't.
If it were my decision, though, based on the little I know, I'd send Alvarez to the minors. One thing's clear: if Alvarez struggles out of the gate -- and every possible indication says he will -- he will struggle loudly. The Pirates got two-hit in this game, and yet everything you saw on Twitter was Pedro, Pedro, Pedro. If this continues, the boos at PNC Park will be deafening.
I've heard some folks say that Alvarez has nothing left to prove in the minors. Normally that's a genus of argument to which I'm not unsympathetic, but in this case, I'm not swayed by it. Alvarez doesn't look like he could hit Class AA pitchers right now. I don't know if he could hit Class AAA pitching at all. I'm not sure what exactly is going on, but pitchers are manipulating him like he's a computer-controlled hitter in a video game. Not that he was ever a perfect player, but right now he doesn't even resemble the hitter he was back in 2010. This year will likely be the Pirates' last chance to get him straightened out in the minors. I could be completely wrong. I hope I am. But right now he's just getting annihilated, and I can't imagine that getting annihilated in front of angry PNC Park crowds will be the best thing for him. Sending him to the minors would at least allow some of the anxious chatter about him to die down.
Again, I really hope the front office knows something about this that I don't.
-P- Erik Bedard hit a bit of a wall in the seventh, but other than that he looked fantastic. He obviously isn't the hardest thrower, but he pounded the strike zone today and didn't make many mistakes. In the end, he had six innings, two runs (one earned), one walk and five strikeouts. The Pirates are lucky to have him.
-P- It was fun to see Jason Grilli come on in with two men on in the seventh. After a runner came in on an error by Alvarez, Grilli got a strikeout, a groundout and a strikeout, and he was clearly pumped on the way back to the dugout, as if he'd just gotten out of a jam in the midst of a pennant chase. You go, Grilli.
-P- Andrew McCutchen scored the Pirates' only run pretty much on pure speed -- it was a Rickey Run all the way. McCutchen walked, then stole second easily. Matt Wieters' throw was way behind and off-line, and it ended up in the outfield, and McCutchen scampered to third. He then came home on a groundout.
-P-was in uniform for the Bucs, but didn't play.
-P- Class A outfielder Gregory Polanco played a few innings, and it looked like he must have been nervous, as he misplayed two balls. He nearly homered in the ninth inning, however, flying out to the track.
-P- The Orioles have a player named L.J. Hoes. Tee hee!