Pedro Watch: Wednesday debut?


No, he’s not here yet.

Pedro Alvarez is in the lineup tonight for Triple-A Indianapolis, which is wrapping up its series in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Indy is off tomorrow, then on Thursday begins a series in Buffalo.

There’s a chance Alvarez will not board the team bus tonight when his Indy mates shuffle off to Buffalo. Management could put him in a car and whisk him to PNC Park to debut in Wednesday night’s game against the White Sox.

Before tonight’s game, GM Neal Huntington did nothing to tip his hand.

“We’ve got to make sure we make the decision for the right reasons and that he’s ready to come up here — not only to survive, but to come up and do well,” Huntington said.

Andrew McCutchen did well from the start when he was called up in June 2009. McCutchen didn’t hit his first slump until August. However, Huntington cautioned it could be different with Alvarez.

“Pedro’s a different type of player, more power-based,” Huntington said. “Guys who can hit tend to come up and do well earlier. In Pedro’s case, we’re still working through some things.

“Statistically, against left-handers, he’s done what we’ve asked him to do. Is he ready to come up and face the best situational lefties in the game? You could argue he’s probably not going to be ready to do that for a year-plus. Is he a complete player? We’re certainly getting closer to that every day.”

• Whenever he does arrive, Alvarez is going to become the everyday third baseman. Andy LaRoche this afternoon got more tutelage from Carlos Garcia at second base before batting practice.

“(LaRoche) will bounce around,” Huntington said. “If Neil Walker continues to play well, he’ll continue to play second. We’ve got a couple of fallback options.

“Neil’s deserved the opportunity to stay out there. Andy is going to be ready to go, whether it’s as a pinch-hitter, a bat off the bench late in the game, as a spot starter at third or second. We’re going to have some interesting competition as we move forward.”

• Ryan Church (.186 BA, 2 HR, 10 RBI) will start tonight in right field. Lastings Milledge (.255, 0 HR, 17 RBI) still is adjusting to making the switch from left to right field. “We’re trying to get Church going. Lastings will get plenty of opportunities as well,” manager John Russell said. “I’m not going to say it’s a platoon situations; we’ll look at matchups and things like that. We’re not going to make (Milledge) just a bench player.”

Church has been a disappointment, but it bears mentioning that he was set back by a wrist injury and two bouts with a stomach virus. “He’s just trying to get back on track,” Russell said. “He’s just now playing pain-free and sick-free and is getting back into his routine. It’s a matter of time.”

• Steve Pearce (ankle sprain) will play in an extended spring training game on Wednesday in Bradenton, Fla. If all goes well, he should begin a minor league rehab assignment, likely in Indy.

There’s no guarantee Pearce will return to the Pirates once he’s healthy. “Time will tell,” Huntington said. “We’ll need to see where Steve is, timing-wise (and) health-wise.”

• Charlie Morton (shoulder fatigue) has made two so-so outings during his rehab stint with Indy. Huntington said Morton’s sore shoulder led to some mechanical issues which must be corrected before he can come off the disabled list. Huntington indicated Morton will make at least another start or two for Indy before any decision can be made. As in Pearce’s case, the GM did not commit to automatically bringing Morton back to Pittsburgh. “We’ll want to see where Charlie is in the process and see where we are and how it all fits together,” Huntington said. It’s too early to tell.”

• Huntington declined to comment on the status of contract/bonus negotiations with the team’s top two draft picks, pitchers Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie. “The signing deadline is Aug. 16.

• The Pirates signed five 2010 draft picks: outfielder Justin Bencsko (20th round), catcher Matt Skirving (30th), third baseman Chase Lyles (32nd), shortstop Kelson Brown (34th) and pitchers Justin Ennis (33rd) and Kevin Decker (39th). Also, the team inked infielder Kevin Mort (University of Mississippi) as an undrafted free agent. Pitcher Zack Weiss, the Pirates’ 10th-round pick, told the Orange County Register he is leaning toward accepting a scholarship to play at UCLA.

• Today, short-season State College began its mini-camp workouts. The roster includes three of the Pirates’ top-10 draft picks in 2009 — pitchers Brooks Pounders (second round), Zach Dodson (fourth) and Zach Von Rosenberg (sixth) — and Australian pitchers Mitch Fienemann and Jarryd Sullivan.

• Former Pitt basketball standout DeJuan Blair will throw out the ceremonial first pitch tonight. “I’m looking forward to getting out on the mound in front of my hometown crowd and taking part in such a cool Pittsburgh tradition,” Blair said.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

White Sox (28-34) — 1. Juan Pierre lf, 2. Omar Vizquel 3b, 3. Alex Rios cf, 4. Paul Konerko 1b, 5. Mark Kotsay rf, 6. Alexei Ramirez ss, 7. Ramon Castro c, 8. Gordon Beckham 2b, 9. Freddy Garcia (6-3, 4.82)
Pirates (23-40) — 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Ryan Doumit c, 6. Ryan Church rf, 7. Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Brad Lincoln (0-0, 7.50) rhp