Sorry, We Can’t Help Ourselves: Neal Huntington, Pedro Alvarez and Jose Bautista


The Pittsburgh Pirates

played a spring training game yesterday against the Philadelphia Phillies. After fighting back to tie the game, the Bucs lost on a walk off homer given up by Daniel Moskos.

But let’s face it – all eyes were on Pedro Alvarez.

Alvarez was able to breakout of an 0-for-18 slide when he battled Phillies starter Cliff Lee for a single to center field.  El Toro did strikeout three times and is now hitting .135.   Yeah, that looks tiny, but it’s a number that, somehow, is on the rise.

We also heard that the movement and toe tap (that we talked about in our post yesterday) has been minimized. Maybe it’s just more fluid now? (Article posted at the bottom of the page)

Alvarez could start feeling comfortable at the plate once again.  Please don’t forget when we were at camp when Pedro was crushing the ball.  While many Pirates fans are stocking up on water and buying generators, please don’t forget that Alvarez has hit a few bombs this spring.

Don’t be brainwashed into thinking that struggles by Alvarez are going to “doom” the Bucs.  The team might get more out of the improved rotation than it will from Alvarez.  Take this to the bank–Pedro is going to struggle.  He will pile up some strikeouts.  But when he gets it back together, he can be an on-base machine.

Don’t look now, but he did put together a good at-bat – which hasn’t happened in a few games, so perhaps the swing is becoming comfortable. Go ahead and roll your eyes again, but it made us think of Jose Bautista. Sure, the comparison is not a really good one, but it’s one that – as Pirates fans – we can’t help ourselves in making.

The whole Alvarez drama this week got us thinking about Neal Huntington.   We remember Huntington speaking with Rocco Demaro during a live post game show at PNC Park back in 2010.  Huntington was more candid in those days.  It stuck with us and we wrote a post about it… [Below we have cut and pasted part of the article “Is Jose Bautista Messing with Neal Huntington’s Head“]

“… after the game, we heard Neal Huntington quickly allude to the fact that patience is one of the mistakes he has made. Huntington was speaking with Rocco DeMaro in an excellent interview on Rocco’s Extra Innings Show. 

In the same answer that he discussed patience being a weakness, Huntington mentioned that he may have pulled the plug on Jose Bautista too quickly.  It floored me. 

But maybe that explains things?  Perhaps he believes Ryan Doumit is going to find that stroke of years gone by.  Maybe that is why Doumit is getting an extended look in RF.  Huntington mentioned a rapid fire of RF platoon possibilities including Brandon Moss, John Bowker, Garrett Jones, and Jeff Clement (extra time was spent on Clement and how he could be a direct correlation of not having enough patience.)  It was a glimpse, albeit a quick glimpse, inside the mind of Neal Huntington.”

We remembered this Huntington moment as we drove back from DC today.  It was after after the Pirates had clinched their 18th consecutive losing season.  The “Graduation Party” of the Streak.    We connected the dots (all on our own!)  to make the presumption that Jose Bautista still messes with his mind.  How couldn’t it?

Fans were drunk.   Fans were pissed.  Huntington sat directly in front of them and answered all of their questions.   He talked about what has to drive him nuts—Jose Bautista.   A man that – when he was in Pittsburgh – couldn’t understand that a change in his stroke could save his career.

So, fast forward to Pedro getting a hit off Phillies left hander Cliff Lee.  It’s what Alvarez needed to do.   Left handers are his Kryptonite.  Now, if he can just start stringing a few knocks together, it might be a different story in the month of April.   But know this: if Pedro Alvarez is going to get his stroke back anytime soon, it will happen in Pittsburgh, not Indianapolis.

After remembering how Huntington spoke about Bautista, we think Pedro is going to get every opportunity to prove he can play.  We also think the Bucs will call every swing doctor on the planet should this new one not be the cure.

There won’t be another Jose Bautista on Huntington’s watch.  We think the first one still haunts him.