09/22/2002 1:22 pm ET
MLBeat: Alvarez getting a look
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' September call-ups weren't expected to get a lot of playing time this month. Bucs manager Lloyd McClendon made it clear that winning games -- whether they are in April or September -- is what matters to him most. That makes it all the more surprising that Tony Alvarez was the starting center fielder for the third time in four days Sunday.
"I've said all along, if I think a kid can help us win, he'll play," said McClendon. "It's just that simple."
Alvarez was the talk of Spring Training. He hit the ball well, showed good speed in the outfield and was a terror on the base paths. The 23-year-old from Caracas, Venezuela, continued to impress at Double-A Altoona. In 128 games, Alvarez hit 15 home runs and led the Curve with a .318 average and 29 steals.
For his solid play, Alvarez joined J.J. Davis as the only Altoona players to be promoted to the big leagues.
"You feel like it's a reward for your season," said Alvarez. "(But) like any other player here you have the chance to show that you can help this team be a winner. I'm very excited and I'm 100 percent prepared to play mentally and physically."
In 10 games before Sunday, Alvarez was hitting .250 (3-for-12) with three walks and four runs scored. Despite his preparation, even Alvarez has been a little surprised by his playing time.
"There are a lot of guys here doing a lot of good things for the team," he said. "But I am getting a chance now. Maybe they see something in me that I can help the team, that I can do the little things for the team."
McClendon has obviously been impressed with what he has seen from the rookie.
"He's done a nice job," said McClendon. "He certainly has a lot of talent and it seems like every time he's on the field he's doing something positive."
What might separate Alvarez from the pack in his quest for a position on the Major League roster next season is his ability to do the "little things" in the game. In Friday's win over the Cubs, Jack Wilson was the hero because he came up with the game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth. But that hit was set up one batter earlier when Alvarez laid down a nearly perfect bunt to move the winning run to third base.
"It's not just hitting home runs and making the great catch," said Alvarez. " It's doing the little things like moving the runners or going 100 percent around the bases and going 100 percent to catch the ball.
"I play with my heart every single day. I love this game and that is the way that I play every day."
Bucco Bits: September call-up Humberto Cota was given his second consecutive Sunday start at catcher over Keith Osik. Cota, who was the organization's Minor League Player of the Year in 2001, is out of options next spring and the team wants to take a look at him in game situations. Osik has spent the last seven years with the Pirates but will become a free agent after the season. McClendon says that the decision to play Cota does not mean that Osik will be leaving the Bucs. "I wouldn't read too much into it," said McClendon. "The fact is, I just want to take a look at the kid. I know what Keith can do."
Fantasy Edge: Brian Giles is starting to heat up again after his first prolonged slump of the year. He's 8-for-15 in his last four games and is good bet to get on base every game. Look for him to finish the season up strong.
Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.