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Alvarez goes way, way deep

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Pedro Alvarez did his first home-run trot in a Pirates uniform this afternoon.

Alvarez launched a three-run shot off the Rays’ Joe Nelson. The ball smacked off the batter’s eye screen behind center field.

I wonder how far would the ball have gone if the screen wasn’t in the way? Dead center is 414 feet from home plate at Charlotte Sports Park. So Alvarez’s blast might have flown … 430 feet? 450? Even longer?

“I didn’t major in physics, so I don’t know,” Alvarez said, grinning.

Garrett Jones followed with an even more monstrous blast — a two-out, solo homer that landed atop a building beyond the right field wall.

“Two pretty good home runs,” manager John Russell said.

The four-run, ninth-inning rally tied the game, 7-7.

• Tom Gorzelanny looked sharp in the first two of his three innings. He began the game by getting five easy outs, including striking out Pat Burrell.

The Rays scored two runs in the third, although two of their four hits in the inning were softies.

“You can’t really do much about some of those hits,” he said. “I was able to limit the damage and move on from there.”

It was Gorzelanny’s longest outing this spring, but comes at a point when most starters are going four or even five innings. He hopes to go at least four in his next start.

“As long as I keep the pitches down, that’s next,” he said. “I would have liked to have gone there today but that third inning kind of added up a little bit. That’s something to be worked on, but we had a plan to get at least three.”

• For the fourth time this spring, Karstens was piggybacked, which means he worked the middle innings after the starter left the game.

A pitcher who is on the back end of a piggyback usually doesn’t face as many starters, as the other team begins to make its substitutions. That means Karstens has faced more second-tier players. His stats this spring: 9 2/3 innings, 12 hits, one walk, three strikeouts, 4.66 ERA.

Once the Pirates make some roster cuts — GM Neal Huntington said “a pretty big chunk” is coming soon — there will be more chances for Karstens to start. Huntington indicated Paul Maholm and/or Zach Duke might pitch in minor league camp to free up innings for other pitchers.

• Maholm will start Tuesday night against the Rays. Donnie Veal, Jesse Chavez, Evan Meek, Dave Davidson, Chris Bootcheck and Denny Bautista also might pitch. Andy Sonnanstine will start for the Rays.

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