Bucs' Hurdle offers support to struggling 3B
Was Pedro Alvarez rushed too quickly back to the majors• The question almost seemed to amuse Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
"The noise I was hearing outside this office, there were a lot of people who felt he should have been up even earlier than he was," Hurdle said Saturday.
Alvarez hit .208 before going on the disabled list with a strained quad. When he completed his rehab assignment, Alvarez remained at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Management intended to keep Alvarez at Indy for several weeks, giving him time to refine his swing and boost his confidence. But when Alex Presley went on the disabled list, Alvarez was recalled July 25.
In 12 games since rejoining the Pirates, Alvarez has hit .200 (10 for 50). Friday, he went 0 for 5 and grounded into three double plays.
"He had a bad night," Hurdle said. "He rolled over three balls, double plays, bad time, big crowd, lot of people on base, it stinks, nobody wanted it. I want to give him some more time."
Alvarez was not in the starting lineup Saturday night against the San Diego Padres. Before the game, he had a closed-door talk in Hurdle's office.
"We've seen some (good) things," Hurdle said. "We're hoping he can bundle it up and go on a run. I want to make sure I'm supportive. Tough love is still love. Nobody's more disappointed than he is. He's going through a hard part right now, just as we all are."
Lincoln up, Watson down
Before the game Saturday, right-hander Brad Lincoln was recalled from Indianapolis and lefty reliever Tony Watson was sent to Indy.
Lincoln went 7-8 with a 4.19 ERA in 19 starts for Indy. Although he was in the starting rotation in the minors, Lincoln will work as a long reliever for the Pirates.
"I'm still going to go right at guys," Lincoln said. "Just because I'm coming out of the pen in the middle of the game or whatever, I'm not going to change things."
Watson pitched well (2.73 ERA, .208 opponent's batting average) in 25 outings, but was the choice to be sent down because he has minor league options remaining. His departure leaves Joe Beimel as the lone left-hander in the bullpen.
Reliever Daniel McCutchen has been scored upon in three of his four games since July 26, when he pitched the final 5.1 innings of the Pirates' controversial 19-inning loss against Atlanta. But McCutchen got three days off after that game and said he doesn't feel any lingering effects from the unusually long, late-night outing.
"I feel fine," McCutchen said. "I hit 95 mph (Friday) and that's as hard as I've thrown all year. There's no fatigue."
Hurdle had a staff member research about how teams performed within 15 days of playing games which went 15 innings or more. The results didn't show anything out of the ordinary.
"For the most part, the good teams played pretty good and the other teams took more of a hit," Hurdle said. "There was a little dip involved in more of the teams, but some of the elite teams worked right through it."
Alex Presley will report Sunday to Pirate City in Bradenton to continue his recovery from a nerve injury in his hand. "He's not going on a rehab assignment yet," general manager Neal Huntington said. ... Derrek Lee (hand) hit soft toss Saturday and said his grip strength has improved. "Shouldn't be too much longer," said Lee, who confirmed the disabled list is not considered an option. ... Chase d'Arnaud (broken pinky) has begun taking batting practice at Pirate City. ... Evan Meek (shoulder) threw a side session Saturday in Florida and reported no ill effects.
Home, sour home
Hurdle and Kevin Correia had a sit-down the other day, trying to find an answer to the right-hander's recent struggles. Especially troubling are Correia's home-away split stats.
In 13 road starts this season, Correia is 10-2 with a 2.74 ERA and a 1.122 WHIP. In 11 outings at PNC Park, he is 2-7 with a 7.71 ERA and a 1.752 WHIP.
Correia will start the homestand finale Sunday against the San Diego Padres. Hurdle said he never considered pushing Correia's next start back one day to Monday, when the Pirates will play in San Francisco.
"I feel confident we need to give him the next start at home, with the plan of attack we've tried to put in place — to maybe make some sense of it and do better with the challenges that have come from it," Hurdle said.
Hurdle wouldn't divulge what tweaks Correia will put in place Sunday. But the skipper did mention a few alterations he tossed around in jest.
"We talked about mattresses. We talked about hotel rooms. We talked about wearing the grey (road) uniform top," Hurdle said.
The Pirates signed outfielder Rodarrick Jones, their 37th-round draft pick. ... Left-hander Zach Dodson, a fourth-round pick in 2009, was promoted to Low-A West Virginia. ... Infielder Shelby Ford, a third-round pick in 2006, was released. ... The pitching staff at West Virginia tossed 10 shutouts through its first 107 games this season. Since the Power became a Pirates affiliate in 2009, they have pitched 25 shutouts. West Virginia had 29 shutouts as a Milwaukee Brewers farm club from 2006-09. ... Triple-A Indianapolis outfielder John Bowker hit .316 with seven homers and 20 RBI in July. Indy has gone 50-23 since Bowker joined the team May 8. "He creates that presence in the middle of the lineup," Indy manager Dean Treanor said. "It changes the whole complexion of our lineup."