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Pirates won't be calling up 3B Alvarez in 2009

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Monday, Aug. 17, 2009
 

CHICAGO — From the majors to the minors, the Pirates' top power hitter this season is third baseman Pedro Alvarez.

Splitting his time between Single-A Lynchburg and Double-A Altoona, Alvarez has hit 23 home runs, one more than Pirates' team leader Garrett Jones. Alvarez went into Sunday's action leading the Eastern League in batting average (.440) and hits (22) in August.

Yet, even though the Pirates are starved for power and run production, Alvarez will not make his major-league debut until at least 2010.

Although the Pirates would like to fast-track Alvarez to the majors, he will finish this season at Double-A. General manager Neal Huntington said he prefers not to jump prospects more than one level in a season.

"We're a long ways from having another option (to Andy LaRoche) at third base," Huntington said Sunday on his weekly radio show. "We really like what Pedro has done with the bat, but he still has some strides to make with his glove. It's not just about his offensive performance."

Huntington said Alvarez must continue to slim down this offseason in order to remain at third base. The Pirates have not yet decided whether Alvarez will go to Instructional League and/or the Arizona Fall League, or if he will spend the winter just working out.

"We're leaning toward giving him the time in the weight room and (teaching him to make) better food choices rather than continuing the day-to-day grind (of games)," Huntington said.

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