PITTSBURGH -- Over the last three weeks or so, third baseman Pedro Alvarez has been on a tear that's virtually unrivaled across Major League Baseball. Since June 16, when he went deep twice and drove in three runs against Cleveland, Alvarez leads the National League with seven home runs and all of baseball with 23 RBIs. He has been an offensive force, the player fans and management dreamed he'd become, but it's worth remembering his rough start to 2012. Alvarez had a .149 batting average and six RBIs through 15 games. He had just five extra-base hits -- four of which were home runs -- which led some to believe that a stint in Triple-A might do some good.
Bucs manager Clint Hurdle was not one of them. "The easy way out is, 'Oh, they're not good enough -- send them down. They're not getting it down -- send them down,'" Hurdle said Thursday. "Well, I think what we've tried to do here as an organization is find different ways to connect with the players, whether it be the mental, whether it be the physical, to find different ways to develop trust, or initiate trust. "I think over time we've been able to initiate some trust with Pedro since I've been here through a very challenging last season." Alvarez finished 2011 with a .191 average over 235 at-bats. He went yard four times and knocked in 19 runs. The third baseman also had 80 strikeouts and 24 walks. This season, Alvarez has 241 at-bats coming into Thursday's game. His average is up to .237, and he's already hit 15 long balls and picked up 48 RBIs. His 82 strikeouts and 27 walks are similar to last year. "Pedro going out wasn't an option," Hurdle said. "We were going to find a way, and I just stayed confident of the fact that he was going to find a way. Yeah, it didn't look good. There was times it didn't look good at all. But again, you got to believe in things other people don't believe in. You got to believe in things you can't see. "The talent we're talking about, that run-producing type talent, doesn't come along very often. You need to explore and give every opportunity for it to play out."