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Price was right for Pedro

BRADENTON, Fla. — Reclining at his locker before the start of a morning workout, Pedro Alvarez was relaxed and personable. He smiled a lot, and there was genuine warmth in his voice.

That changed when the questions turned to his contract dispute last summer.

Alvarez half-turned on his chair and stared at a flat-screen TV mounted on the clubhouse wall. His voice went flat, the words clipped and seemingly rehearsed.

“I’m just glad I’m here right now, and that’s all I can say,” Alvarez said. “I’m going to work my hardest, play to the best of my abilities and let everything take care of itself.”

Alvarez wonders whether fans in Pittsburgh will embrace him once he finally makes it to the majors.

“I’m just eager to show them how hard I play and how dedicated I am to this game,” he said. “They can judge me from that. All I hope for is that they see me for the player I am, the love I have for the game.”

• Alvarez talked glowingly about David Price, the Rays’ highly touted left-hander. Alvarez and Price were teammates at Vanderbilt, and sometimes faced each other in intrasquad games. Who had the upper hand?

“Aaaahh. I’ll plead the Fifth,” Alvarez laughed. “I don’t want to embarrass him.”

Price, speaking from Rays camp, was a bit more eager to talk about his showdowns with Alvarez. But — tease alert! — you’ve gotta buy tomorrow’s Trib (or go online after midnight) to find out what Price thought about facing Alvarez.

• Third basemen Andy LaRoche and Neil Walker were mere spectators at today’s workout. LaRoche sat out for the second straight day after having back spasms Wednesday. Walker was out with a stomach virus.

During fielding drills, Luis Cruz and Ramon Vazquez took balls at third base. Also Eric Hinske did some work at third for the first time this spring. Hinske broke into the majors as a third baseman, but hasn’t played the position regularly since 2004.

• Seventeen pitchers threw live batting practice for the first time this spring. Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan tried to simulate game conditions as much as possible.

The pitchers warmed up in the bullpen before facing batters. When Ian Snell started to jog onto Field 1, Kerrigan put out an arm to stop him. “Don’t hurry,” Kerrigan said. “We’ve still got the National Anthem before the first pitch.”

• Regular batting practice, with coaches lobbing balls to the plate, was held on Fields 3 and 4. “That’s the group I’d want to be in,” prez Frank Coonelly said as he watched Steve Pearce crush a toss from coach Rich Donnelly. “Those guys (on Fields 1 and 2) are throwing hard.”

• The Cleveland Indians designated third baseman Andy Marte for assignment. So far, there are no indications the Pirates will try to acquire him. Once upon a time, the Indians offered to include Marte in a possible deal for outfielder Jason Bay.

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