Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The only Alvarez we know is a slugger

Monday, April 13, 2015, 11:00 p.m.

Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez hits a solo home run during the seventh inning against the Tigers on Monday, April 13, 2015, at PNC Park.

The Pirate Pittsburghers want to love probably won't let us get to know him, but don't hold that against Pedro Alvarez.
Try just watching him instead.
“The eyes have always been on him,” center fielder Andrew McCutchen said of Alvarez, a teammate who is also a close friend.
“It was that way when he was in college, when he was drafted, so this isn't a big adjustment for him, at least I don't believe.
“This is a game of adjustments. And this game is hard. It's not easy at all. And he's done a good job.”
A job is seemingly what baseball is to Alvarez, at least as teammates tell the story.
He shows up at the ballpark, puts in his work and leaves. That doesn't mean he is standoffish, problematic or selfish. Neil Walker described Alvarez as a “great teammate.” McCutchen insisted Alvarez is a “huge part” of the family feel in the clubhouse.
But the stuff that comes easily to Walker and McCutchen — daily interviews with the media that significantly shape their public personas — is of no interest to Alvarez.
Since his sixth season with the Pirates also could be his last, I'm not waiting for Alvarez to help me help you understand him.
I'm going to watch him hit.
Because the way Alvarez hits a baseball is something I've not seen from a Pirate in my lifetime. The way Alvarez hits a baseball is to pulverize it.
Pittsburghers, not to mention Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, were reminded of that Monday afternoon when Alvarez buried a baseball into the center field seats at PNC Park.
It marked only the fourth homer hit by Alvarez in Pittsburgh since July 1.
Keep in mind that only 10 major leaguers have hit more than his 87 homers since 2012. But of that group, only Alvarez spent much of last season's second half not playing because of throwing struggles and an injury.
He made only 76 plate appearances after the All-Star break. He already has 24 this season.
Alvarez also already has three home runs, all on first pitches.
Let that be his narrative.
Let that be what Pittsburghers love about him.
Judging by the collective roar that followed the crack of his momentum-switching swing Monday, love was in the breezy Pittsburgh air at PNC Park. Root Sports cameras caught Alvarez grinning and excitedly pumping his fists while returning to celebrating teammates in the dugout.
This wasn't Barry Bonds flipping his bat and raising both arms. However, for a guy who “just goes about his business,” as McCutchen said, Alvarez getting stuck in a moment sure seemed telling.
“Shows that he wants it,” McCutchen said. “He always has. Nothing's changed.”
Well, that's not true.
Alvarez now is holding down first base, not the hot corner. He also has adapted his swing with the aim of taking balls the other way against shifting defenses. Manager Clint Hurdle noted Alvarez's “really consistent at-bats early in the season.”
Maybe we're witnessing the maturation of Alvarez into a well-rounded hitter. And maybe as the maturation continues, he'll feel comfortable showing more of himself to Pittsburghers who have often serenaded him with clap-along chants of “Let's go, Pedro!”
But maybe a lot of us never are going to get to know Alvarez the way Walker does.
“That's a pretty special individual,” Walker said.
I'll take Walker for his word.
What I do know is that Alvarez is back to bashing baseballs, and that's something all Pittsburghers can love about him.
It's the surest thing we really know about him at all.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

Read more: http://triblive.com/sports/robrossi/8148015-74/alvarez-mccutchen-pittsburghers#ixzz3XHPeQxw1 
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