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Seeking more offense, Pirates recall Alvarez

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Amy Jinker-lloyd
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
 

ATLANTA -- The Pirates can't afford to be short on offense as they begin a four-game series against the Braves, so Pedro Alvarez will get the opportunity to show that his .365 average in 18 games at Triple-A Indianapolis will translate in the race for the NL Central championship.

"We'll get him plugged back in the lineup now," manager Clint Hurdle said before Monday's game, "while he's been swinging well."

Recalling Alvarez became necessary when outfielder Alex Presley was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Saturday, with a left hand contusion.

Alvarez, who missed six weeks with a quad injury he aggravated partway through rehab, had more than offensive improvement on his to-do list when he was optioned to Triple-A. He worked on his weight, conditioning, ready position on defense and morning and pregame routines.

"The reality is that Pedro has had a good week to 10 days. In this game, a week to 10 days is nothing," farm director Kyle Stark said. "He struggled for two months (with the Pirates). We all want to get Pedro Alvarez up there, but we want to make sure we get the Pedro Alvarez we saw at the end of last year."

"In a perfect world, Pedro probably would spend a little more time in the minors," general manager Neal Huntington said, announcing the move. "But this isn't a perfect world. We think it's the right opportunity to bring (Alvarez) back."

By the numbers
Pedro Alvarez batted only .193 in his last 10 games with the Pirates. Here's a breakdown of how he fared in those games:
AB R Hits 2B HR RBI BB K
31 3 6 2 1 3 5 10

With Indianapolis, Alvarez went 23 for 63 with three home runs and 13 RBI. Over his past 10 games, he was batting .472. Hurdle said Alvarez has shown a good finish to his swing and good length.

"It's not so rotary. He was squaring balls up, hitting left center to right field line," he said. "Obviously we need to add offense since one of our better offensive players has just been put on the DL."

Hurdle wouldn't commit to playing Alvarez every day, but he was in the lineup yesterday, and Hurdle said he'll "get the volume of the playing."

But this is a work in progress. Alvarez wouldn't be here except for Presley's injury.

"We brought him back," Hurdle said. "Let's let him play. I think that will take care of a lot of it. We're just going to give him the opportunity to go out and play. Free him up.

"The guys are happy to have him back. He had a twinkle in his eye today that I haven't seen in a while. He took all the challenges to heart, and he's in a good place."

Alvarez acknowledged it's been "really tough" not to be with the team.

"Obviously I'm really happy to see them doing well, but I miss these guys," he said. "It's fun to be around these guys. I just wanted to be able to come and do what I can to help out and win ball games."

Alvarez was a starter on Opening Day, but he hit only .208 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 36 games. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 20 with a right quad strain.

"We've got to make sure we do the right thing for the right reasons,' Huntington said Sunday. "Pedro's biggest challenge is himself, just trusting that his best swing is when he hits the ball to left-center field. When he tries to hook, pull and launch, he's an out. He's making progress at ... realizing he doesn't need to hit the ball 700 feet. We're getting there with him, absolutely."

"We didn't bring him back to be the guy,"

Rob Biertempfel contributed to this story.

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