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Talented trio ticketed for minors

Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, March 15, 2009

BRADENTON, Fla. — Pedro Alvarez will not begin the season with the Pirates. But the consensus in the front office is that Alvarez is probably not that far away.

The same also can be said about outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata.

Alvarez, 22, was the second overall pick in last year's draft. Farm director Kyle Stark said starting Alvarez at Class A "makes the most sense."

Stark compared Alvarez's situation to that of Matt Weiters, who was Baltimore's first-round pick in 2007. Weiters began his pro career in A ball and this spring is a candidate to be the O's starting catcher.

The Pirates want to find out this season whether Andy LaRoche can be a long-term answer at third base. That will buy Alvarez time to develop.

"The reality is, there's not a rush to get Pedro to the big leagues," Stark said. "When he's ready, he'll move (up). We're not going to dictate the process; it's up to him."

McCutchen, 22, at this point is ticketed for Triple-A. The center fielder has appeared in just 152 games for Indianapolis but already has shown he can hit at that level.

Tabata, 20, will be asked to repeat the success he had at Double-A Altoona after arriving in a mid-season trade.

"If Andrew's at Triple-A, then Jose at Double-A makes a lot of sense," Stark said. "We'd like to continue to develop Jose in center field. He's a much more physical frame than Andrew, but he's still an average runner with good instincts."

Alvarez, McCutchen and Tabata are rated the team's top three prospects. Alvarez and Tabata already are on the 40-man roster.

"I think they're all close," said Stark, who added the Pirates will not hesitate to call up a player from Double-A if he shows he has the tools to succeed in the majors.

Right-hander Brad Lincoln, the team's top pitching prospect, will start the year at Double-A.

Yer outta here!

Manager John Russell and second baseman Freddy Sanchez were ejected in the fifth inning of Saturday's game against the New York Yankees.

Sanchez was tossed first for disputing umpire Ron Healey's strike zone. When Russell came out to defend his player, he, too, was rung up.

"One of those things," Sanchez said. "What can I say?"

The Pirates have a stationary camera in center field, so Russell watched the game from the clubhouse.

"At least I could see the pitchers throw," Russell said.

Russell was ejected from one game last season.

Yankees 13, Pirates 10

The Yankees broke open a tight game with a seven-run seventh inning. Craig Hansen (0-1) gave up three runs on five hits in one-third of an inning. Chris Bootcheck served up a grand slam to Jesus Montero.

Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf tossed four perfect innings against his former team. Ohlendorf got two strikeouts, both coming against Mark Teixeira.

Additional Information:

Today's game

Rays vs. Pirates

1:05 p.m. · McKechnie Field, Bradenton, Fla.

Radio: WPGB-FM (104.7)

Pirates probable starter: LHP Tom Gorzelanny

Rays probable starter: RHP Matt Garza

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