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Improving Alvarez still striking out in middle of lineup

CINCINNATI -- Third baseman Pedro Alvarez entered Wednesday's matchup with the Reds having reached base safely in 14 of 16 games this month. In that span, he hit five homers and accounted for 14 of his 43 RBIs, and manager Clint Hurdle said Alvarez has been showing glimpses of the player the Pirates hope he can be.

"Pedro has the ability to shrink any park we play in," Hurdle said. "The ability to drive in runs and be a run producer is quite evident. We knew it was a special talent when we drafted him. You see it play out throughout the season from time to time."

The problem Hurdle has had with Alvarez is deciding where to place him in the lineup, especially considering Alvarez struck out 81 times in 215 at-bats and has a .282 on-base percentage. Hurdle said he's "done three different system analysis" to find the most optimal spot for Alvarez, and for most of the season, that spot has been sixth.

"How do you maximize the swing of the bat that you get when you get it?" Hurdle said. "He's been a very good run producer for this team this season. He's had a lot of opportunities, as well, but he has shown the ability to rise to the occasion."

Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for
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