Pirates Notebook: Andy LaRoche takes extra infield

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ST. LOUIS -- Andy LaRoche went to the Pirates, rather than the other way around.

"We were going to take him out for early infield practice, but he came to us," infield instructor Perry Hill said. "I like to see that."

LaRoche, who committed three errors in the first two games at third base, engaged in a half-hour session of grounder after grounder, then learned from manager John Russell he would be replaced in the lineup -- just for the night -- by Ramon Vazquez.

"We'll give Andy a day to step back and relax a little bit," Russell said.

LaRoche's primary issue, as seen by Hill, was that he was flipping his glove, meaning it was closed when the batter made contact, then flipped open to try to catch the ball. That motion, and its inherent delay, can cause any infielder trouble.

"It wasn't something we saw from him at all in spring training, but there it was," Hill said. "I'm not worried about it. The rest is good. His footwork is good. I like his confidence. He'll be fine."

Two of LaRoche's errors were on routine bouncers, the third on a dropped popup.

Alvarez debut tonight

Finally, 10 months after the Pirates made him their first-round draft pick, Pedro Alvarez will take his first professional at-bat tonight for Class A Lynchburg against visiting Potomac. He will start at third base and bat third or cleanup for the Hillcats.

Management apparently is making no particular fuss over it.

"I'm not a big opening-day guy, and I don't want Pedro or, really, any of our players to place too much emphasis on any one game," director of player development Kyle Stark said. "We have a plan in place for Pedro, and this is just the beginning of it."

Ford out early

Shelby Ford, the Pirates' top second base prospect, will miss the opening of Class AAA Indianapolis' season tomorrow because of a recurrence of the sprained right wrist that troubled him through spring training.

He is not expected to miss much time, according to Stark, but is not on the active roster.

Buried treasure

• Owner Bob Nutting will attend Class A West Virginia's opener tonight in Charleston, W.Va., that franchise's first as a new affiliate. Team president Frank Coonelly was in Erie for Class AA Altoona's opener last night.

• Reliever Donnie Veal allowed a home run to his first batter in his major league debut Tuesday, Yadier Molina, and walked three others. But he heard from the coaching staff yesterday that they were largely satisfied with how he bounced back, striking out three -- with devastating stuff in a couple instances -- and allowing no more runs. "That's what I liked about the outing, too, that I came back," Veal said.

• The Cincinnati Reds have changed their rotation for the weekend series. It now is Johnny Cueto, Micah Owings and Aaron Harang.

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com.


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