PITTSBURGH - Pedro Alvarez showed some significant statistical improvement in June.
What does Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle think of that?
"I'm not impressed," Hurdle said. "He's done more than this. Statistically, in some areas, we're better, but again, we can cherry pick numbers and get good and get bad.
"Looking at the whole context of it, the consistency is what he's looking for. We're looking it for it with him."
Alvarez batted .299 in June with a .396 on-base percentage and .483 slugging percentage.
In April, those numbers were .172, .280 and .387. He lifted them in May, posting a .255 average, .319 on-base percentage and .387 slugging percentage.
June was also the month that Hurdle twice lifted Alvarez for pinch hitters Gaby Sanchez and Jordy Mercer against left handed pitching. It was also the month when Hurdle twice removed Alvarez for defensive replacements in the late innings.
Most of Alvarez's career with the Pirates has coincided with Hurdle's tenure as manager. The Pirates believe Alvarez has enough ability, but it doesn't always translate into results.
Maybe that's why Hurdle was quick to dismiss June's improvement as a mere step along the way to what the manager expects.
"The ability to square up balls, drive in runs, score runs," Hurdle said. "Be a more consistent run producer."
Alvarez had six home runs in April, four in May and three in June. He's had 14 RBIs in each of the three months.
Alvarez has had hot streaks in his career, but they've been offset by valleys where he strikes out too often.
"He's had periods where it's been fun to watch," Hurdle said. "He's carried the club. He really hasn't had one of those to date this season. At least, I don't believe. Maybe I've missed one."
Alvarez is 27, a point in his career where he should be established as a player. Instead, he's being replaced by pinch hitters and better defensive options for the first time in his career.
He's eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, so every day is closer to a time when the Pirates have to make a decision on him for the long term.
"He works so hard to get better and to be consistent," Hurdle said. "That's what I hang my hat on. He's willing to work and willing to battle. I'm right there with him."
Alvarez has 10 fewer home runs than he did at this point last season. That's why teammates believe the best is yet to come from him.
"If you ask him, he knows he can do better," center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "He's done a good job, but I know what he's capable of doing, and he knows what he's capable of doing. We're looking forward to him having a really good July and doing even better."
McCutchen moved into first place in fan voting for All-Star outfielders.
"It's really cool," he said. "We'll see what happens when the voting is over with. I've been to three All-Star games but I never had the chance to start."
Musician and reality TV star Bret Michaels, a native of Butler, was on the field before the game and took batting practice.
"He's a big fan, we had a lot of fun," McCutchen said. "Got to toss the ball around a little and I told him his BP was better than (Ben) Roethlisberger's. He got a good laugh out of that. Roethlisberger will probably give me a call."
Francisco Liriano is scheduled to pitch a simulated game this afternoon.
Liriano, on the disabled list with a strained oblique, probably won't return to the roster until after the All-Star break.