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Alvarez makes contact

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pedro Alvarez’s first hit in Pirates spring training camp was a biggie — an RBI double in the ninth inning today against Boston. Alvarez wound up scoring the winning run in the Pirates’ 3-2 decision.

Yesterday against the Phillies, Alvarez struck out on three pitches — all offspeed stuff in the dirt. Facing Red Sox right-hander Richie Lentz, Alvarez was hoping to make solid contact.

“I was just trying to get a good piece of the ball and actually get a ball I can hit this time,” Alvarez said, smiling.

Alvarez lined a double which hopped up against the left-field wall. Neil Walker scored.

“It was nice to see Pedro relax,” manager John Russell said. “Yesterday was not the way you want to start. He had a smile on his face today, and he should. It was a big hit in a big situation. He drove the ball.”

• Walker and Jose Tabata began the ninth inning with back-to-back walks. “Tabata had a great at-bat, and that set the tone for the inning,” Russell said.

• Starter Ian Snell allowed two unearned runs in two innings. He yielded two hits and struck out three.

“He had the two walks, but he wasn’t spraying,” Russell said. “He was just missing. He threw some pitches down that were borderline that didn’t go his way. We kicked the ball behind him and cost him 12 pitches and two runs; (otherwise) it would have been a real solid outing for him. It’s something for him to build off.”

• Shortstop Brian Bixler’s two-out error allowed the Sox to load the bases. Jeff Bailey followed with a bloop single — the ball plopped a couple of feet in front of hard-charging center fielder Andrew McCutchen — which scored two runs.

• Snell leaves Sunday to begin workouts for the World Baseball Classic. He’ll be on a strict pitch count during the tournament.

“I’m staying on the same program,” Snell said. “I’ll keep doing everything we’ve been doing here. I’ve already talked with (pitching coach Joe) Kerrigan, Russell and (GM Neal) Huntington. I told them I wasn’t going to change anything.”

• Starting in the second inning, five Pirates pitchers — Snell, Ross Ohlendorf, Jimmy Barthmaier, Denny Bautista and Sean Burnett — combined to retire 18 straight batters.

“It’s early, but it’s good to see,” Russell said. “The command is what I’m liking right now. Ohlendorf did a good job. Bautista, I was very impressed with his command. Barthmaier threw the ball well.

“I think the biggest thing is, they’re using both sides, they’re using the changeups and they’re attacking the zone early. There were some quick two outs and then 2-0 on the next hitter, which we will address tomorrow. For the most part, all our guys attacked the zone real well today.”

• Andy LaRoche started at third base and went 1 for 2. Shelby Ford started at second and went 1 for 2 with a stolen base.

• Huntington denied reports the Pirates never offered a contract to Doug Mientkiewicz, who today signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers.

“We had ongoing dialogue with Doug Mientkiewicz and his (agent) about coming to spring training with the Pirates,” Huntington said. “We offered Doug a minor league contract with a chance to come to major league spring training to make our club and showcase himself for other clubs. Doug chose the Dodgers because he felt he had a better chance to make that club.”

• Tom Gorzelanny will pitch the first two innings Friday against Atlanta. Jason Davis, Zach Duke, Daniel McCutchen and Chris Bootcheck also are slated to pitch. Kenshin Kawakami will start for the Braves.

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