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Confidence is best tonic

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BRADENTON, Fla. — Pedro Alvarez today picked up his first hit of spring training, an opposite-field, solo home run in the Pirates’ 8-6 loss against the Blue Jays. Alvarez drove an outside fastball from right-hander Kyle Drabek over the left field wall. In the sixth, Alvarez lined a single to right field. “Whenever you can square up a couple balls in the game, it’s a good thing,” Alvarez said. “I’ve just got to keep it going, keep the consistency and the good at-bats. The results will take care of themselves. It feels really good to have a good day. That’s what we’re working for.”

Manager Clint Hurdle said too much was made about Alvrez’s 0-for-5 start, which included three strikeouts. “We weren’t making a lot out of it,” Hurdle said. “Nobody’s bothered me on the street about it. Out on Anna Maria Island, they don’t even know about it. We need to give guys some time. He kept working … and some progress was made today. A little confidence is the best elixer for anybody. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. He’s just got to trust all the work he’s put in.”

»»» Starling Marte hit a two-run homer — his seventh consecutive hit. Marte is 8 for 11 overall this spring. “Seven straight hits is a lot,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He looks very, very confident at the plate. He’s put the ball on the ground with a bunt, he’s swung the bat and drove the ball.”

»»» Hurdle praised Jeff Karstens’ performance (three scoreless innings, two hits, one strikeout): “Thirty-five pitches in three innings. Threw all his pitches. Used his fastball to both sides of the plate. Spun the ball extremely well. Good changeups, good cutter. Very, very good command.”

»»» Josh Harrison filled in for Neil Walker (tight lower back) and doubled in both of his at-bats. Harrison, who missed one game after being hit on the elbow by a pitch, has reached base safely in six of his first seven plate appearances.

»»» Here’s a nice little item from the NY Times about reliever Ryota Igarashi, who doesn’t seem to mind too much that the clubhouse folks can’t spell his first name.

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