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Alvarez back in lineup

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BRADENTON, Fla. — After sitting out the past three games with a sore left knee, Pedro Alvarez will be back in the lineup tonight against the Orioles. In fact, the lineup looks a lot like I’d expect it to be on Opening Day.

Yesterday, GM Neal Huntington gave Alvarez a rather powerful vote of confidence, saying the third baseman’s hitting woes will not net him a trip back to Indy to start the season. I took note when Huntington said Alvarez “did what he needed to do this offseason; he’s in good physical shape.” Alvarez turned down the Pirates’ suggestions that he play winter ball and instead worked out in California with a personal trainer.

“I have a little more flexibility in my swing and I’m able to stay through some balls and let the ball get deep,” Alvarez said. “It’s (about being) not so tense because (that’s when) all your muscles are so tight and wound up. I get that whip and can really use my hands, and separate my bigger pec muscles and back muscles and … ” Alvarez paused and laughed. “I’m getting a little too technical,” he said.

Alvarez also added a toe tap to his swing as a timing mechanism, and has admitted it’s taken a while to feel comfortable with the new mechanics. “He uses it to gather himself, get himself in a position where he feels athletic,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “When that front foot hits the ground, he needs to be in a good foundation, with his hands in a strong position, to get to the ball and stay through it.”

»»» Righty Chris Resop will start tomorrow against the Phillies. Joel Hanrahan (who pitched earlier today in a camp game at Pirate City) Daniel Moskos and Ryota Igarashi also are scheduled to pitch. Jeff Karstens will start a minor league game at Pirate City. it’s likely set up that way so Karstens can work deep into the game to build arm strength, while the relievers can get in their work in the other game.

»»» There were 1,655 votes cast in the Trib fan poll, which asked you to ID the greatest center fielder in Pirates history. The final results: 1. Andy Van Slyke (634 votes, 38 percent), 2. Lloyd Waner (336 votes, 20 percent), 3. Bill Virdon (253 votes, 15 percent), 4. Al Oliver (101 votes, 6 percent), 5. Omar Moreno (89 votes, 5 percent), 6. Andrew McCutchen (79 votes, 5 percent), 7. Max Carey (67 votes, 4 percent), 8. Matty Alou (60 votes, 4 percent), 9. Kiki Cuyler (35 votes, 2 percent).

Spring game No. 22: Orioles v. Pirates, 7:05 p.m., Bradenton, Fla.

Orioles (9-9): 1. Nolan Reimold lf, 2. JJ Hardy ss, 3. Nick Markakis rf, 4. Adam Jones cf, 5. Matt Wieters c, 6. Mark Reynolds 3b, 7. Wilson Betemit 1b, 8. Ronny Paulino dh, 9. Robert Andino 2b. Tommy Hunter rhp

Pirates (8-13): 1. Alex Presley lf, 2. Jose Tabata rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Garrett Jones 1b, 6. Rod Barajas c, 7. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Erik Bedard lhp

Also scheduled to pitch: Juan Cruz, Tony Watson and Jason Grilli

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