PITTSBURGH -- Third baseman Pedro Alvarez is in his fifth major league season, but he has yet to become the consistent run-producer the Pittsburgh Pirates thought they were getting when they used the second overall pick in the 2008 draft to select him from Vanderbilt.

However, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle refuses to give up hope that Alvarez can become an elite slugger.

"He's willing to battle, he's willing to work, and that's what keeps me encouraged," Hurdle said.

Alvarez is hitting .239 with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs in 81 games. The Pirates had every right to expect more after he tied for the National League lead with 36 homers last season and then went deep three more times in the five-game loss to St. Louis in the National League Division Series.

Instead, Hurdle was forced to remove Alvarez from cleanup spot in the batting order because of his erratic production. The last time Alvarez batted fourth was May 22.

Prior to going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts Tuesday in Pittsburgh's 3-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, Alvarez had reached bases in nine of his last 14 plate appearances and was hitting .389 (7-for-18) with a double, two home runs and seven RBIs in his last six games.

That wasn't enough to impress Hurdle.

"You take statistics and cherry-pick good and bad," Hurdle said. "If look at whole context, though, it's not what we're looking for. We need him to be consistent. We needed him be a run-producer, to drive in runs and score runs.

"At points, he can be phenomenal, though he hasn't really ran into one of those streaks this season. I don't think he has. I don't think I'm missing one."