PITTSBURGH -- Josh Hamilton's 2010 batting coach was asked about the Texas outfielder's monster Tuesday game, and it wasn't long before the conversation involved Pedro Alvarez. It had nothing to do with Clint Hurdle -- Texas' batting coach between managerial gigs in Colorado and here -- intimating the Pirates' third baseman could one day also hit four homers and total 18 bases as Hamilton had in Baltimore the night before. However, Hurdle incidentally mentioned having worked with Hamilton in the middle of the 2010 season on getting rid of his toe-tap at the plate -- just as he had done with Alvarez earlier this year as Spring Training was winding down.
"Personally, I'm not a fan of the toe-tap," Hurdle said of a popular timing device among batters, "but you've got to be open-minded. [Pedro] liked it. He believed it had a chance to work. But he never got the traction we were looking for, so with a week to go in Spring Training, we decided to go another way." It took a while for the simplified approach to launch Alvarez. He scuffled through Spring Training (.170, with 22 strikeouts in 53 at-bats) and was hitting .122 three weeks into the season. Since, he has hit .350 with four homers and 10 RBIs in the dozen games leading up to Wednesday and has taken over as the Bucs' cleanup hitter. Hurdle's Hamilton experience differed in that the hitter himself sought him out for advice as he was coming out of May 2010 with a soft .281 average. Hurdle recommended shedding the toe-tap, convinced him it could be done on-the-fly in midseason, and Hamilton eliminated it that very night. After a hesitant beginning, he wound up that June batting .454 with 31 RBIs in 25 games. Hurdle sent Hamilton a text message acknowledging his historic night. In it, Hurdle wrote "I thought they outlawed using a tee in the American League." "He's on fire," Hurdle said. "He's driving balls to the big part of the ballpark. He's so physically strong and gifted. When he gets on a streak, he changes the game dramatically in so many ways. Good for him."