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Pirates call up Alvarez

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pedro Alvarez will make his long-awaited Pirates debut this evening..

"He is on his way here," general manager Neal Huntington said last night after the Pirates lost, 6-4, against the Chicago White Sox. "Assuming there are not travel issues, we'll make it official (Wednesday) and have a whole lot more to say about it then."

Alvarez, the team's top prospect, went 0 for 3 with a run scored last night for Triple-A Indianapolis against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He got word of his callup as he was preparing to board the team bus to go to Buffalo for a road series.

The news of Alvarez's impending arrival caused a buzz in the Pirates' clubhouse.

"It will be nice," center fielder Andrew McCutchen said.

"I'm excited for him, very happy," outfielder Jose Tabata said. "I know he can play here in the major leagues. I can't wait to see him here. He'll make the team better."

The Pirates will make a corresponding roster move, sending out a position player — Ryan Church and Aki Iwamura are candidates — once Alvarez arrives.

The Pirates took Alvarez with the second overall draft pick in 2008. He received a four-year, major league contract and a team-record $6 million signing bonus but signed too late to play in the minors that year.

Alvarez played last season with Class A Lynchburg and Double-A Altoona and hit a combined .288 with 27 homers and 95 RBI. He hit .277 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI this season with Indianapolis.

Alvarez's promotion completes a trifecta of sorts for the Pirates — all three of their top prospects have reached the majors in a span of one week. Tabata and pitcher Brad Lincoln made their debuts June 9.

The series of callups marks the start of a new phase for the Pirates — one which could cause changes among the coaching staff. Yesterday, reported management has had internal discussions about firing manager John Russell.

Last night, after the Pirates suffered their season-high ninth straight loss, president Frank Coonelly denied discussing Russell's potential dismissal.

Alvarez's arrival had been anticipated for several days. Yesterday afternoon, Huntington said management was careful to make sure Alvarez, 23, was ready for the promotion.

"We've got to make sure we make the decision for the right reasons and that he's ready to come up here — not only to survive, but to come up and do well," Huntington said.

McCutchen did well right away after being called up in June 2009, and didn't hit his first slump until August. However, Huntington cautioned it could be different with Alvarez.

"Pedro's a different type of player, more power-based," Huntington said. "Guys who can hit tend to come up and do well earlier. In Pedro's case, we're still working through some things.

"Statistically, against left-handers, he's done what we've asked him to do. Is he ready to come up and face the best situational lefties in the game• You could argue he's probably not going to be ready to do that for a year-plus."

Alvarez will become the everyday third baseman. Before yesterday's game, incumbent third baseman Andy LaRoche worked out at second base with infield coach Carlos Garcia.

"(LaRoche) will bounce around," Huntington said. "If Neil Walker continues to play well, he'll continue to play second. We've got a couple of fallback options.

"Neil's deserves the opportunity to stay out there. Andy is going to be ready to go, whether it's as a pinch-hitter, a bat off the bench late in the game, as a spot starter at third or second. We're going to have some interesting competition as we move forward."

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