MILWAUKEE -- After a one-game hiatus, Pedro Alvarez was back in the Pirates' lineup Wednesday night. But the National League home run leader was not back in the cleanup spot. Justin Morneau remained in the four-hole, with Alvarez slotted No. 6 against Brewers righty Wily Peralta.
The recent acquisition of the longtime Minnesota cleanup hitter moved manager Clint Hurdle from his long-held belief that the Bucs' lineup would max out with Alvarez as the No. 4 hitter.
"If Morneau is not here, Pedro would hit fourth," Hurdle said. "But the added level of experience and different skill set connects the dots a little more solidly through the middle. We're set up better. Not the same swing-and-miss or power, so there's a give and take. But with the quality of the at-bats, it makes more sense to go this way right now.
"This was the plan all along [once Morneau arrived]. You've got a guy that's absolutely done it -- and a guy growing into it. This balances it better one through eight. And Pete has shown the ability to drive in runs from the six spot, so now you've got danger there, too."
Alvarez had collected 42 percent of his RBIs (36 of 86) while taking only 38 percent of his at-bats (178 of 474) in the six-hole. Career-long, those percentages are 39 and 35.
Morneau was primarily the cleanup hitter during his 11 seasons with the Twins.
The new alignment will also challenge opposing managers' ability to make matchup moves with their bullpens. One through seven, the Pirates alternate right-handed and left-handed batters: Jose Tabata, switch-hitting Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Morneau, Marlon Byrd, Alvarez and John Buck (Wednesday night, Russell Martin most of the time).
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.Less