Hinch: Alvarez 'one swing away' from impact

October 15th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Astros rookie designated hitter cracked his bat on the ground when he struck out during Sunday’s Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, marking the second time in recent days the 22-year-old slugger has shown his frustrations. He snapped a bat over his leg after striking out against the Angels during the final weekend of the regular season.

Veteran first baseman and fellow Cuban has served as a mentor for Alvarez and spoke to him on Monday about how to handle the frustrations that come with being a big league hitter. Alvarez went 0-for-7 with five strikeouts in the first two games of the ALCS.

Astros manager AJ Hinch flipped Gurriel and Alvarez in the batting order for Game 3, putting Gurriel behind in the No. 5 hole instead of Alvarez.

“I talked about just not having to feel the frustrations like that because we're facing very good pitching right now,” Gurriel said. “So just take the at-bat and continue on to the next at-bat. We're going to have the same today, we're going to face tough pitching, so just get ready for that at-bat.”

Hinch said he’s the last guy that’s going to jump off the Alvarez train.

“He's such an impactful player on our team and in our lineup, and you've got to keep encouraging him, and our players are encouraging him,” Hinch said. “He's one swing away from changing the game. And in a perfect world, if we can just get him back in the strike zone, he's super dangerous.”

Alvarez, Twins second baseman and White Sox outfielder were named finalists in the AL for Outstanding Rookie honors in the 2019 Players Choice Awards. Braves righty Mike Soroka, Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds and Mets first baseman Pete Alonso were named finalists in the National League.

Tipping pitches a growing trend

Every team looks for an edge in tipping pitches, and it has become heightened in the postseason for Houston. Rays righty Tyler Glasnow appeared to be tipping pitches in their AL Division Series Game 5 loss to the Astros on Thursday, and Houston appeared to catch New York southpaw James Paxton tipping pitches in Game 2 of the ALCS on Sunday.

“The pitch-tipping stuff has grown to a level unlike any other era of baseball I've ever been a part of,” Hinch said. “It's been around forever. If pitchers are going to tip pitches, then hitters are going to pick up on those tendencies. There's no difference than usage. If you throw the same pitch 2-2 every time against a right-handed hitter, you're going to have guys that look for that.”

In the Astros’ Game 2 win over the Yankees, Bregman appeared to mouth the word "glove" to the dugout as if alerting his teammates to watch the pitcher’s glove for a cue.

“I think it's kind of funny to see how paranoid the entire industry is on giving away their pitches,” Hinch said. “And if they don't want to tip their pitches, then they should take consideration into doing the same thing over and over again.

“Human behavior is really hard, but I don't worry too much about it. We take great precaution in changing signs, talking to our pitchers, looking at video, making sure that we're not giving anything away. It shouldn't overshadow the quality of play or the players or what's going on on the field. The paranoia is real, though. And it's real across 30 teams.”

Hinch confident in Pressly

Hinch said he spoke with reliever recently to let him know he still has confidence in him despite some hiccups in the playoffs. Pressly was virtually unhittable in the first half of the season before right knee surgery landed him on the injured list in August.

Pressly has given up four runs in 1 2/3 innings over four postseason outings. He was touched for two runs and four hits in Game 1 of the ALCS and allowed a hit to the only batter he faced in Game 2.

“This guy has got really good stuff,” Hinch said. “He's one pitch and at-bat away from being the shutdown reliever that got him to the All-Star Game, and the shutdown reliever that was barely giving up any contact or any hits.”

Pressly, and are the primary relievers Hinch will call upon to get the final outs in any postseason game. Hinch said mistakes are magnified this time of year, but Pressly remains a key piece of the bullpen.

“I'm going to get him back in there,” Hinch said. “He's going to get some big outs in this stretch here at Yankee Stadium.”