PITTSBURGH -- To Pedro Alvarez, the 2013 Chevrolet Home Run Derby is "just BP, right?" which could be a good thing because, to his Pirates teammates, nobody takes batting practice quite like Alvarez, who belted a two-run homer in his first at-bat Friday night against the Mets.
"He should've been doing it the whole time," Pittsburgh and National League All-Star teammate Jeff Locke said of Alvarez, who was added to the NL Derby foursome when Carlos Gonzalez chose to withdraw with a finger injury. "It would have been a disservice to Major League Baseball had he not been in the Home Run Derby.
"A lot of guys take impressive BP," Locke added, "but his is the most impressive I've ever seen. I'm really happy for him."
Andrew McCutchen, a Derby participant last year, had only one piece of advice for Alvarez:
"Don't try to hit 500-foot home runs. Just go with a nice-and-easy swing -- and pull the heck out of them.
"He has a home run swing. It's what he does. He's gonna go up there and do something he knows how to do," said McCutchen, who scoffed at the popular perception that Derby participation can foul up one's swing. "That's bogus, the way I look at it. In batting practice every single day, we have rounds where all we try to do is hit home runs. People always say a bunch of bogus stuff: 'It messes up your swing.' Ah, no."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was glad to hear that things broke right for Alvarez to get the Derby spot many felt should have been his to begin with.
"I was like, 'Yeah!' Everybody got to gyrate and throw their hands in the air and fire off their angst, and now it's on," Hurdle said. "He understands this is an opportunity, and it's good. The point I'll try to drive home to him is, it's more about experience than performance. Don't set expectations. Embrace it."
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.