Pedro Alvarez_edited-1 MORNING PIRATES BUZZ
Is this the year for the Pirates? That’s going to be a question that won’t be going away anytime soon as the Pirates moved 16 games above .500 at 46-30 after a thrilling come from behind win over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday to complete their first interleague road sweep.
As we’re nearing the halfway mark of the season, the Pirates clearly have something special going on right now.
A huge development for the Pirates has been Pedro Alvarez. He’s been unbelievable of late at the plate and is second in the National League with 19 home runs and 6th in RBIs with 51. Alvarez is a frustrating player at times and let’s be honest not the most approachable person in the Pirates clubhouse, but he’s made great strides defensively at third base and developing or finding 30-40 home run third basemen is not easy. Alvarez is on pace for 41 home runs and 109 RBIs on the season.
The big thing for Alvarez is if he’s going to start flourishing in the cleanup spot. With Andrew McCutchen not starting on Sunday afternoon, Alvarez batted third for the first time in his career and hit a solo home run in his first at-bat of the game and then added a double in the 10th.
Alvarez’s most effective spots in the lineup during his career has been the No. 6 and No. 7 spots in the lineup. The Pirates need him to lock down the cleanup spot behind Andrew McCutchen to provide needed protection for McCutchen who is not seeing a lot of fastballs and has just 8 home runs on the season. Whether it’s a mental thing or not, Alvarez has never been able to hit out of the No. 4 spot. He always been more comfortable back in the batting lineup. Alvarez is 2-11 in the cleanup spot this season and batted .140 (12-86) with just 1 HR and 9 RBIs there last season.
Gerrit Cole will start again Friday as he looks to improve to 4-0 on the season but how many starts he gets after that, maybe one or two more, remains to be seen. The Pirates internally plan to send Cole back down to the minors when A.J. Burnett returns from DL and for the short-term go with a rotation of Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Locke, Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton.
The Pirates emphatically state that their intention to send Cole down to the minors at some point will have nothing to do with his Super-Two status but who’s going to believe that. The reasoning the Pirates are going to float out there is that they want Cole to develop more secondary pitches and that he’s a one pitch, pitcher.
Sending Cole down for the specific period of time they need to, makes all of the sense long-term financially but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the right decision. As players like Alvarez will soon be pricing themselves out of Pittsburgh in the next couple years, things are setting up for the Pirates where this is the year they need to really go for it. Let’s say the Pirates send Cole down and he misses three starts and Charlie Morton loses all three starts during that span and the Pirates end up missing the playoffs by one game.