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A few quick thoughts

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BRADENTON, Fla. — Four fields at Pirate City are buzzing with activity this morning as day four of minicamp gets under way. A few quick impressions before I pack up my gear, drive up the highway to Tampa’s airport and return to Pittsburgh:

»»» I didn’t get a good look at Pedro Alvarez during PirateFest weekend because he was wearing a winter coat and sweater. But after watching him in the batting cage and on the field this morning, I can say he looks to be in great shape. He’s moving well at third base, seems agile and strong. The weight issues of last year won’t be a problem when spring training camp opens in a few weeks. Alvarez also seems very relaxed and confident, and was all smiles after barrelling up a lot of balls in the cage today. The video clips of Alvarez are from this morning.

»»» Kudos to Clint Barmes, a veteran who didn’t have to put in the time to attend this voluntary minicamp. But Barmes is eager to fit in with his new mates, and figured minicamp was a good time to get introductions out of the way so he can begin spring training at full speed.

»»» Jeff Karstens also is putting in extra work this week at Pirate City. This could be a big year for the right-hander, who last season dispelled notions that he wasn’t a good fit as anything but a long reliever/spot starter. With a firmer grip on a rotation spot, Karstens this winter is working on his endurance and core strength so he can go deeper into games this summer.

»»» Contract talks between the team and Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen remain quiet.

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