Pirates' voluntary minicamp opens up without Pedro Alvarez
BRADENTON, Fla. — Pedro Alvarez was not at Pirate City on Monday morning for the start of four days of voluntary workout sessions.
That's not unusual, as players who are on the 40-man roster are not required to attend the minicamp and most veterans opt out. Neil Walker, Josh Harrison, Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, among others, also were no-shows.
More than 40 players, major and minor leaguers, are at the workouts. The event is geared toward elite prospects, players who are recovering from injuries, and guys who are on the fringes of making the 25-man active roster.
Alvarez, a five-year veteran, had incentives to come to minicamp. He missed the final month of last season due to a stress reaction in his left foot. Also, he is still adjusting after being moved from third to first base in mid-August.
General manager Neal Huntington would've been happy if Alvarez had chosen to work out in Florida with the coaches and many of his teammates. Yet, Huntington realizes the Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates teams cannot force players to attend.
“We open the facility (because) we want as many guys as possible to come together and get ready to go because we're not too far away from spring training,” Huntington said. “The union, obviously, has been very aggressive in (its) right to protect the players from having to work too hard in January and be under club control in January. We get that.
“Pedro had the complete option to come or not. We expect him to be ready to go on the first day of spring training and to get after it.”
Pirates pitchers and catchers will report to spring training Feb. 18. Position players must report by Feb. 23, the day before the first full-squad workout.
Huntington said the team has kept tabs with Alvarez during the offseason to make sure he is recovering from the foot injury.
“He's making good physical progress,” Huntington said. “He's in a good spot, and we feel we're going to see that guy who put up (66) home runs over the 2012 and 2013 seasons.”
Whenever Alvarez checks in for spring training, newly hired special assistant Kevin Young will be waiting for him.
“I'm looking forward to working with Pedro,” said Young, who has not spoken with Alvarez. “I've heard he's a wonderful young man.”
Young, 45, played in the majors from 1992-2003 for the Pirates and Kansas City Royals. He was primarily a third baseman in the minors but played mostly first base in the majors.
Alvarez made 24 wild throws — only 81 percent of the balls he fielded resulted in outs — before being replaced by Josh Harrison as the everyday third baseman. Alvarez got in five games at first base before the foot injury shut him down.
Young said moving across the diamond to change positions is not easy.
“For Little League, it might be,” Young said with a laugh. “But at this level, it's an art over there. How well you handle the glove at first base will impact the rest of the infield and your pitching staff.”
Young was hired primarily to work with corner infielders. He'll tutor outfielder Andrew Lambo and catcher Tony Sanchez, who are learning how to play first base. Especially at the start of spring training, Young will spend a lot of time learning about Alvarez.
“You have to know what the desire is and the mentality,” Young said. “You have to know what they want to do and how they want to commit. That's important. Pedro's a good athlete, and he's got a strong mindset. If he takes that into the transition ... he'll be greatly successful. That's what the organization hopes to see.”