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GM: Alvarez needs MLB playing time

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Pedro Alvarez hasn't played since Thursday due to inflammation in his left knee (Getty Images photo)

Pedro Alvarez hasn't played since Thursday due to inflammation in his left knee (Getty Images photo)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — It was not quite a message of unconditional support, but it was close. A few minutes ago, as the final notes of the National Anthem faded on the P.A. system at Osceola Sports Complex, GM Neal Huntington insisted the Pirates are not considering sending slumping third baseman Pedro Alvarez to Triple-A Indy to start the season.

“We’ll see where he is health-wise,” Huntington began. “But, the rumors of him starting at Triple-A have never come from the Pirates. It’s been outside speculation. It’s not what we’ve thought (of doing). We asked him to do some things coming into spring training. He’s done those. He’s going through a tough stretch right now. Are we going to be able to get him out of it? We believe we will.”

Huntington was asked whether Alvarez would benefit from more playing time in the minors. “There are times when guys are able to get away with flaws at Triple-A that they can’t get away with at the major league level,” Huntington said. “He may be one of those guys. We can’t put too much stock in Triple-A performance, good or bad, or spring training performance, good or bad. He did what he needed to do this offseason, he’s in good physical shape. For a long time this spring, he was swinging the bat well; he’s gone through a tough stretch (recently). It’s not the first or last time he’s going to go through a tough stretch. The microscope just happens to be a lot sharper on Pedro right now. He just needs to relax and play. The ability is there. He’s going to be a good big league player. He’s going to be a threat in the batter’s box. He’s got to let it play.”

Management had hoped to get Alvarez a lot of at-bats down the stretch, but he hasn’t played since Thursday due to what the team says is minor soreness in his left knee. There is a chance he might get in some swings Monday in a camp game at Pirate City.

In 13 spring training games, Alvarez is batting .133 with two homers and three RBI. He has struck out in 13 of his 31 plate appearances. His on-base percentage is .156. Those poor numbers are similar to where he was at the end of the 2011 season, which was interrupted by a quad injury and a rehab stint at Indy.

“We don’t want to respond over-the-top to either good or bad (stats),” Huntington said. “Certainly, there are some areas of concern. There’s been some positive signs as well. How do we best put him and us in a position to be successful? Right now, the knee doesn’t seem to be that big of an issue. We’ve got to make sure we handle it conservatively and put him in a position to be successful, and get him the necessary at-bats to get him going.”

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