ANAHEIM -- Pedro Alvarez got hot at the plate -- .393 during a seven-game hitting streak -- swinging it from the six- and five-holes in the Pirates' batting order. The deserved promotion came Sunday, when the third baseman surfaced in the No. 3 slot against Angels right-hander Joe Blanton.
Alvarez didn't disappoint, slugging a solo home run in the first inning, his 19th of the season and the fourth straight game he's gone deep.
It was unclear which carried more significance: that he was batting third for the first time in his career, or that manager Clint Hurdle skipped over him for the No. 4 spot? Hurdle has always maintained that cleanup is Alvarez's destiny and the Pirates' lineup will be best served when he finds a home there.
But Alvarez's two extended trials in that role have not gone well, so is Hurdle now avoiding that because it might come with excess burden for his slugger?
"I don't think so, but you always hear me say that feelings aren't facts, and the facts are telling me that has not been a comfortable spot for him," Hurdle said.
In 38 career games in the cleanup spot, Alvarez has hit .135, with two homers in 133 at-bats.
"I do think a time is coming when, through Pedro's experience and maturity, it's not going to complicate things for him and he'll make a seamless transition [into the four-hole]," Hurdle said. "But with [Russell] Martin and [Andrew] McCutchen not in the lineup [and] him being hot -- that's why he's third today. To read anything more into it is missing the point."
Well, there was one other point to having Alvarez bat third on Sunday.
"He's 6-for-9 off Blanton," Hurdle said. "End of story."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.