Alvarez's immediate intention is to show management he is ready to return to the big league club and contribute much closer to the expectations he was unable to meet earlier this season. After making an appearance on May 19, Alvarez was placed on the disabled list with a right quad strain and ended up sidelined for weeks.
Alvarez's rehab work ended a little more than two weeks ago, but the Pirates opted to keep him in Triple-A longer in order to give him time to meet various checkpoints. He worked through timing issues on offense and focused much of his defensive work on getting in a lower ready position.
Focus, too, was placed upon pregame routine and conditioning, and that appears to have Alvarez even fitter than he was at the beginning of the year. He developed a routine that started when he woke up and continued until game time. The quality of his pregame work also improved, Hurdle noted.
"The things that we had put for him on the to-do list, he was knocking down one at a time," Hurdle said. "We're just going to give him the opportunity to go out and play. The guys are happy to have him back. He worked extremely hard. He took all the challenges to heart, and he's in a good place. We'll see where we can all take it together."
Alvarez will be the Pirates' regular third baseman again, though Hurdle tempered expectations about Alvarez's impact on an offense that needs a lift.
"We didn't bring him back to be the guy," Hurdle said. "He needs to be the guy that he can be. It's just his next opportunity now to go ahead and put a foot down and get the kind of Major League career that we all believe he can put in play."
Still, it's no secret that Alvarez could provide the boost that the Pirates' lineup really needs. He has the power that this offense lacks and profiles to be a prolific run producer once he can close up some of the holes that pitchers exploited in his swing.
During his 36 games at the start of the season, Alvarez batted .208 with two homers, six doubles and 10 RBIs. Those results were in sharp contrast to the numbers Alvarez put up in his final 33 games of 2010. During that end-of-the-season stretch, Alvarez batted .297 with 19 extra-base hits and 29 RBIs.
"I've been working and hopefully going in the right direction," Alvarez said. "Most importantly, it was getting the timing down and getting that consistency back. The good thing I'm going to take out of that [absence] is that I kind of get to start with a clean slate."
Alvarez walked in his first plate appearance on Monday, which came an inning after he muffed a ground ball hit toward third. That error, his eighth of the season, didn't end up hurting the Pirates, and Alvarez didn't have another ball hit toward him all night.
His second-inning walk was key in setting up the Pirates' two-run inning. Alvarez also singled in the fourth.
"To say that there were no jitters, I'd be lying," Alvarez said. "I just wanted to get that comfort level right away, so as the game went on, I was getting closer and closer. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to get the chance to play out there and help the team."