xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement

Orioles' Pedro Alvarez streaking as lineup opportunities could dry up

"Been feeling more comfortable," said Pedro Alvarez after hitting two home runs in loss. "You know, anytime you can get an opportunity to get some ABs and see some pitches, it going to add to that comfort level." (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

After two months of false dawns, it appears the Orioles are finally getting the version of designated hitter Pedro Alvarez they ordered up in February. The next step is making sure his ascendant stretch isn't happening at the wrong time.

With two home runs and five RBIs Tuesday in the Orioles' 10-7 loss to the San Diego Padres, Alvarez improved .240/.318/.473 with nine home runs and 24 RBIs on the season, with the bulk of that coming this month. In June, Alvarez is batting .340 with six home runs and 13 RBIs in 14 games.

Advertisement

But after Thursday's day off, the Orioles get Manny Machado back from his four-game suspension and will have a full-strength infield for the first time since early May with J.J. Hardy back at shortstop. That will leave Alvarez back as a full-time designated hitter, where he'll have to keep hitting this way to continue to earn playing time or else revert to his sporadic early season role.

After Tuesday's loss, he acknowledged how much that recent consistent playing time has helped.

Advertisement

"It's a lot more comfortable," Alvarez said. "I'm feeling better, and you know, anytime you can get an opportunity to get some [at-bats] and see some pitches, that's going to add to that comfort level. Just getting to know the pitchers a little bit better, seeing them for a second time around, you're just picking up arm angles and whatever it may be. But that second time around, you know them a little bit better and you just feel a little more comfortable."

When Hardy fractured his foot, Alvarez became a bigger part of the team's plans at third base with Machado at shortstop. He played some third base, but has primarily been a designated hitter against right-handed pitching. That much has remained the same both before and after Hardy was injured.

Before the injury, however, the competition for at-bats was more crowded. Putting Alvarez at designated hitter meant keeping one of Joey Rickard, Mark Trumbo and Nolan Reimold out of the lineup. Rickard has since swapped his starting role for Hyun Soo Kim's bench role, and Kim and Alvarez are often seen together in lineups against right-handed starters.

As long as Trumbo commands a daily lineup spot, he could continue to play right field against right-handers and move to designated hitter against lefties, when the preferred outfield consists of Rickard and Reimold at the corners.

Keeping Alvarez away from left-handed pitching might be the right move — he has managed just two hits in 19 at-bats off them this season. But it seems that this platoon designated hitter role that he'll settle back into might be coming at a time when some of Alvarez's increased at-bats from the past seven weeks are disappearing.

Hardy and Machado are fixtures on the left side of the infield, so even if it was five extra at-bats each week that playing third got him, his impact at the plate will be hampered by their loss.

Even if the Orioles learned third base wasn't the best place for him, his bat was more valuable in what was at the time a thinner lineup without Hardy. Now, the hope is that he continues to produce even as the roster construction has changed.

However he's deployed, it's a relief for all involved that they aren't getting the version of Alvarez who entered June batting .194 with three home runs and seemed to be falling out of favor.

"I'm a big guy of just trusting the process, putting in the work and coming to the field every day and you have a routine, you have a plan, and just trust in that with time and repetitions that everything will fall into place like it's supposed to," Alvarez said. "That's kind of what I have always held onto."

"He's in a pretty good place right now," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's got a good approach and a good routine. He and [hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh] have kind of struck a good chord about what kind of works. We're getting a return, and it's good to see it because through thick and thin he never gave in, never complained. He's a pro. He works hard at it. I'm glad as much for him as I am for our team. We could be sitting here talking a lot about him if we'd have gotten the seventh inning pitched."

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement