Pirates notebook: Alvarez's 0 for 3 night hinted at hot streak
NEW YORK — If Pedro Alvarez is on the upswing of another one of his torrid offensive stretches, the starting point should not be set at his towering home run Thursday against the New York Mets. Nor was it the infield single he legged out earlier in that game.
“No, I wouldn't say it was that,” Alvarez said.
What got Alvarez going? The 0-for-3 collar he wore Wednesday against Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
“It's going to sound kind of odd, but ... it was the first game in I can't tell you how long that he didn't swing and miss at a pitch,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Against King Felix, Alvarez popped up, grounded out and rolled into a double play. He saw 11 pitches: one was a called strike, two were balls, three were put in play and five were fouled off.
No hits, but ...
“You're not always going to get the results you want,” Alvarez said. “But as long as you get the approach you're working on, the process, sometimes that speaks more than just getting a hit.”
That means Alvarez got locked in. In the fourth inning Thursday, he singled off Mets righty Dillon Gee. It wasn't pretty — a dribbler that second baseman Daniel Murphy had to dive for, giving him no chance to make a throw.
But what's important is Alvarez got a tricky pitch, recognized it, reacted and was able to do something productive.
“It was a 3-2 changeup, and I got just a good enough piece to keep it up the middle instead of rolling over it,” Alvarez said.
It's been 228 days since Francisco Liriano pitched in a big league game. That streak will end Saturday, when the left-hander makes his Pirates' debut against the Mets.
Liriano broke his right humerus in late December, missed spring training, then made five minor league rehab starts.
“It was different to be pitching down in A ball in April,” Liriano said with a smile. “To be honest, I'm a little bit nervous about (Saturday). I just need to locate my pitches, get ahead in the count, not try to do too much.”
Liriano will be activated off the disabled list before the game. The Pirates must make a corresponding move, probably sending Duke Welker back to Triple-A Indianapolis.
Russell Martin has caught Liriano in the bullpen, a first step toward learning the pitcher's habits. If Martin's in the lineup Saturday — he was rested Friday, three days after his neck locked up during pregame warm-ups — he'll need a more thorough strategy session.
“In spring training, we talked a lot and we've talked a ton since I got here,” Liriano said. “If he catches me, I'll sit down with him before the game and tell him what I like to do so we're on the same page.”
Around the horn
Second baseman Neil Walker will appear on labels of Steel City Spicy Brown Mustard. The new-look condiment containers will unveiled at 11 a.m. Monday at Jerome Bettis' Grill 36. Walker (right hand laceration) was scheduled to play nine innings for Double-A Altoona on Friday. He's eligible to come off the DL on Sunday. ... Martin and Mark Melancon visited the New York Center for Autism Charter School's annual baseball clinic Friday. Former Pirates slugger Bobby Bonilla and several Mets players also attended. ... Charlie Morton (elbow surgery, sore shoulder) threw a bullpen session without any problems Friday at Citi Field. Morton's rehab assignment is on hold until his shoulder is back to normal.