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Pirates manager Hurdle: Alvarez, Presley must perform to keep jobs

| Friday, Feb. 3, 2012

No starting positions will be up for grabs when the Pirates open spring training camp in two and a half weeks, but third baseman Pedro Alvarez and left fielder Alex Presley still must prove they can hang on to everyday jobs.

During an interview Thursday on TribLive Radio, manager Clint Hurdle rattled off his starters and noted that Alvarez and Presley "will get the first shot" at their respective positions. This offseason, the Pirates signed two experienced free agents — corner infielder Casey McGehee and outfielder Nate McLouth — who could step in if either Presley or Alvarez falters.

McGehee, 29, was signed primarily to platoon with Garrett Jones at first base. However, McGehee has started just one game at first in his four-year career. Last season, McGehee made 139 starts at third and batted .223 with a .626 OPS.

Alvarez, 24, was a first-round pick in 2004. Last year, he battled a season-long slump — Alvarez hit .191 with a paltry .561 OPS — and missed time due to a quadriceps injury.

"We've seen Pedro good, and we've seen him not so good," Hurdle said. "We're looking to see a different quality to his at-bats this spring than we saw last year. And the same with Alex."

Presley, 26, began last season at Triple-A Indianapolis and was a midseason call-up. Management wants him to hike his on-base percentage and take better advantage of his speed on the basepaths.

After two subpar seasons with Atlanta, McLouth, 30, took a one-year, $1.75-million deal to return to Pittsburgh. He can play all three outfield positions but is not going to unseat center fielder Andrew McCutchen or right fielder Jose Tabata.

Hurdle admitted that it sometimes can be "challenging" to compare players' merits based purely on stats during spring training. One player may face an opponent's starting lineup, while the other goes against prospects and backups.

"I've got to use my eyes and my gut to make some decisions," Hurdle said. "You can't just throw everything into the computer."

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