Sluggish start at plate for Alvarez


BRADENTON, Fla. — My story today about Pedro Alvarez’s mysterious weight focused on whether or not he can do the job defensively at third base. But I’ve been asked whether a few extra pounds will hurt his offensive skills.

Hey, heavy dudes can hit. (I’m talkin’ to you, Prince Fielder.) GM Neal Huntington certainly doesn’t seem to expect a dropoff in Alvarez’s production.

“Pedro Alvarez is stronger than he’s ever been,” Huntington said. “We’re looking forward to a very productive season out of Pedro. He looks big. He looks strong and ready to do some damage with the bat.”

Alvarez has smacked some bombs during batting practice and he’s looked great during bunt drills (a skill he’ll most likely never be asked to display during an actual game).

However, not all the news is good.

During situational hitting drills today on Field 1, Alvarez was awful. There were swings and misses. There were balls hit toward the wrong spot at the wrong time. Alvarez’s body language in the cage was not happy — and neither was that of manager Clint Hurdle, who watched from a few feet away. At one point, after Alvarez fanned on a pitch, Hurdle grimaced and shook his head.

What does it mean? It’s early, so it’s hard to say if it really means anything. But it’s worth remembering as we move closer to the start of Grapefruit League games when the action — and the stakes — ramps up.

Whatever happens, there’s a good chance the Pirates will not allow Alavrez to work out on his own next offseason.

»»» Scott Olsen’s sore left hamstring will keep him off the mound for at least a week. That puts him behind Charlie Morton in the battle for the No. 5 starter job, but Hurdle declined to say just how far back Olsen will be. “We’re going to take it a day at a time,” Hurdle said. “We’ll see how it feels when he’s able to come back.”

»»» All 62 players have arrived in camp and were on the fields today at Pirate City.

»»» Ronny Cedeno checked into camp today and participated in full workouts. “We need Ronny to play with consistency,” Hurdle said. “We need him to defend well, make good decision in the infield and take more of a leadership role in the infield. Offensively, he’s got to have better quality at-bats. We’ve got to work with him to keep the ball out of the air.” More on this in tomorrow’s Trib.

»»» The three pitchers you might as well dub The Future — Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie and Luis Heredia — stood side by side and watched this morning’s workouts.

»»» Donnie Veal, on the mend from Tommy John surgery, threw a bullpen session under the watch of pitching coach Ray Searage, an athletic trainer and special assistant Kent Tekulve. “Felt fine,” Veal said. The lefty will not be game-ready until later in the season.

»»» Jose Ascanio, who had been sidelined by visa problems in Venezuela, also arrived today and threw a bullpen. “He’s out of options, so this is a big spring for him,” Huntington said.