Alvarez's professional life to start in Florida

Pirates say top pick's toughest transition will be everyday duty

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The hard part is over.

All the Pirates have to worry about regarding Pedro Alvarez now is his fulfilling widely held forecasts for Major League Baseball superstardom in, oh, a year or so?

Consider scouting director Greg Smith's assessment of what Alvarez needs to do once beginning his professional career: "Honestly, the biggest adjustment I see for Pedro is just playing everyday, the physical, the mental parts of that."

Which sounds akin to saying one is ready for NASCAR if only someone would toss him a set of keys.

In reality, there will be adjustments for Alvarez, the now-former Vanderbilt University left-handed slugging third baseman, and not all of those will go smoothly. Even the most gifted players are prone to backward steps the first time they run into some Class AA junk-baller journeyman capable of humbling them.

Still ...

"Pedro's already swung a wooden bat in summer leagues, so I don't think that will be a problem," Smith said of the transition from aluminum. "Some would argue he's got a better swing with wood. Amateur hitters get away with a lot with alumimum because the sweet spot of the bat is a lot longer. With wood, you have to have a more refined swing. You have to center the ball. Pedro gets rewarded more for his great swing with wood."

OK, how about defense?

Some have expressed doubts about Alvarez's ability to remain a third baseman, pointing to a thick 6-foot-2, 225-pound build and projecting an eventual move to first.

"I don't believe that," Smith said. "He was a shortstop in high school, and he'll tell you he could still play there. What I like best is that he works so hard to get better there. That means a lot to me. You see guys who hit like he does, and they think they can get enough RBIs to make up for their defense."

The first step to it all will be getting Alvarez to Pittsburgh for a physical, and there is no timetable for that. He flew yesterday from California, where agent Scott Boras' office is, to his home in New York, and he is not expected here until tomorrow at the earliest.

The physicals will determine the first playing time, but Alvarez will participate in the Florida Instructional League this fall if, as expected, he is in good shape. Alvarez had been working out for much of the past month in Boras' conditioning program.

As for a beginning minor league level next year, general manager Neal Huntington said all that is on hold.

"We'll let the player show us that, as with any player," he said.

Generally, players of Alvarez's caliber start out in high Class A, as was the case with Matt Wieters, the Baltimore Orioles' superb catching prospect and first-round pick last summer. But Wieters soon blew away that level and was promoted to Class AA. Some expect him in the majors as soon as next spring.

"We don't have a timeframe," Huntington said of Alvarez. "There are a lot of players that are drafted to be early arrivals that never arrive. Pedro's abilities to make adjustments will show us how quickly he'll get here."

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at .


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