Alvarez down to No. 7 in new-look Bucs lineup
Young Pirates third baseman replaced by Jones in fifth spot
MIAMI -- Pedro Alvarez is back in the starting lineup, but he finds himself in a new position in the order.
The young Pirates third baseman, who has primarily hit in the middle of the order, found himself batting seventh in Tuesday night's opener against the Marlins. Right fielder Garrett Jones now sits in Alvarez's usual fifth spot in the lineup.
"There is ownership to a lineup, and you give guys the opportunity to move, and when guys aren't getting things done, you shuffle them around," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I'm going to be proactive rather than reactive with it. Right now, Jones has earned five and Pedro has earned seven."
Hurdle has also moved Andrew McCutchen to the top of the order and Lyle Overbay into the third spot. The Bucs skipper is pleased with how his new lineup looks from top to bottom.
"I like the way the bats have lined up with the switch-hitters breaking up the left-handers now," Hurdle said. "McCutchen's spark is back up top, and [No. 2 hitter Jose] Tabata still hasn't cooled off. We'll see where Overbay takes it in the three slot."
Pittsburgh's manager first started tinkering with the lineup about a week ago when his team was struggling to score runs. But after an offensive explosion last weekend in Cincinnati, he believes his team has moved past its offensive struggles.
"We fell into an offensive rut, and I wanted to see if we could shake out of it," Hurdle said. "We'll see how this plays out, but we definitely shook out of it in Cincinnati."
While some on the outside may criticize Hurdle's decision to be more fluid with his lineup than most managers, the veteran skipper is more concerned with how his team performs than any outside opinions.
"I really don't care what anybody else thinks of the lineup at the end of the day," Hurdle said. "My job is to put a lineup out there that's going to perform."
Bucs' road success part of focus on basics
MIAMI -- It is only April, but the Pirates have already made a big improvement on one of their biggest weaknesses from 2010.
After going 17-64 on the road last season, this year's Bucs have started off 7-3 away from PNC Park. More importantly, their strong start on the road comes along with series wins over three division rivals -- the Cubs, Cardinals and Reds.
"We've just played better baseball," manager Clint Hurdle said. "You want to win on the road, you need to play good baseball."
Hurdle, who is in his first season managing the club, is about getting back to basics. It's that focus on the fundamentals that he believes has gone a long way in helping the Pirates improve their play on the road, and will ultimately make them a better ballclub overall.
"We've tried to simplify it," Hurdle said. "You throw first-pitch strikes, get the first batter of an inning out, and on offense you get the first hitter on base. When there are opportunities to score, you get them in. These are the baseball staples.
"I wasn't here last year but I know these are some areas that we weren't very good in. They've taken it to heart that for us to go where we want to go, we've got to become a much better ballclub on the road. We've gotten out of the blocks pretty clean so far. There are a lot of games left to play, but I'm pleased with the effort and the attitude on the road, and I anticipate it will turn around back home when we get there."
Pirates pitchers going the distance
MIAMI -- Kevin Correia had no idea his complete game on Monday was anything more than his third win of the season.
Correia allowed three runs (two earned) in Monday's 9-3 victory over the Reds to become the second Bucs pitcher to earn a complete-game victory this season. Charlie Morton, who will start Wednesday against the Marlins, had a complete-game win against the Reds on Friday.
The early success Pirates starters have had in 2011 is exactly what pitching coach Ray Searage was hoping to see from his staff. Now he plans to help them build off their success as the season progresses.
"We wanted to get a good foothold, start off well and see what we're capable of doing," Searage said. "With each one of them, we will take it a start at a time. Today it's going to be [Paul] Maholm, and we're going to take his start today and build off that for his next one, and we'll keep doing that as the season progresses. The starters are going to get the ball and go as deep as they can in the game, and then we're going to use the bullpen when we want to and not because we have to."
With their complete games, Morton and Correia have accomplished something that hasn't happened in nearly 20 years. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Pirates had not thrown more than one complete-game win in the month of April since 1992. Zane Smith tossed a pair of complete-game victories, while eventual NL Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek chipped in with the team's third of the month.
The pair of right-handers also helped the Pirates surpass last year's complete-game win total. Maholm was the only Pittsburgh pitcher to throw a complete-game win last year when he beat the Astros on July 18.
Jeff Karstens will start for the Pirates on Friday in their series opener against the Nationals. The right-hander allowed five runs over 4 1/3 innings in Sunday's start against the Reds while filling in for an injured Ross Ohlendorf. ... Righty Jose Ascanio will begin his rehab assignment on Tuesday night with Triple-A Indianapolis. The pitcher has been on the disabled list since March 22 with right elbow tightness. ... Injured right-hander Kevin Hart was with the team on Tuesday at Sun Life Stadium. Hart, who has been on the 60-day DL since March 18 with right shoulder soreness, will be evaluated by the team's Major League staff this week.
David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.