Pedro Alvarez's first month of professional baseball brought some wows and a lot of whiffs.
The Pirates' highly regarded first-round draft pick from last summer has batted .209 in his first 31 games for high Class A Lynchburg, with six home runs and 26 RBIs, as well as 35 strikeouts. The home runs and RBIs rank third in the Carolina League, the strikeouts fourth.
"Pedro's swinging out of the zone right now, no question, and we're working on that," director of player development Kyle Stark said. "On top of that, he's swinging very hard, which is why you see the great contact when he does hit it. We know he has the power, but we also know he's a more complete hitter."
Inexperience is one reason. Another surely is that Carolina League pitchers want little to do with Alvarez, as evidenced by the 20 walks he has been issued -- sixth-most in the league -- and the many others he could have had with additional patience.
That is common even for elite hitters, who are accustomed to getting hits and can become uncomfortable taking walks while they wait for their pitches.
"Comes with time," Stark said.
One sign of maturity has been Alvarez's flair for the dramatic:
• In Lynchburg's opener April 9, he went 3 for 4 with a two-run home run that brought the lead and a two-run double that brought victory.
• He hit a walkoff three-run home run April 16 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to break a 6-6 tie, part of a six-RBI night.
• His solo home run with two outs in the ninth April 19 brought a tie that ended up a 10-inning loss.
• His solo home run in the seventh April 27 broke a 4-4 tie and ended up a 5-4 victory.
Of Alvarez's six home runs, five put the Hillcats ahead, and one tied the score.
Sanchez's agent responds
Paul Cobbe, agent for second baseman Freddy Sanchez, yesterday responded to Pirates president Frank Coonelly's explanation for why his client -- whose contract has an $8.5 million vesting option for 2010 if makes 635 plate appearances this year, or 600 plate appearances plus an All-Star berth -- was benched twice in four games last week.
Among Coonelly's comments was that he was "offended" anyone would think manager John Russell "would do anything other than put out the lineup that he believes gives us the best chance to win the most baseball games."
"I agree with Frank that the Pirates have a much better chance of winning with Freddy in the lineup," Cobbe responded. "He's in the best shape of his life, hitting doubles, stealing bases, doing a lot of good things. Depending on how the vesting option works out, Freddy can make a strong case for why the Pirates should want him to be there in 2010."
• Russell praised his catching tandem of Robinzon Diaz and Jason Jaramillo for their ability to block pitches: "They block as many as anybody. They're very agile, athletic." As a result, Russell added, pitching coach Joe Kerrigan has been comfortable with recommending more pitches in the dirt against hitters with a tendency to chase those.
• St. Louis outfielder Ryan Ludwick, whose right hamstring was strained Tuesday trying to catch Nyjer Morgan's triple, was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
• The fifth annual "Bowling with the Bucs" charity even, hosted by shortstop Jack Wilson and wife Julie, will take place May 31 in Crafton. Contact the Pirates at 412-325-4969.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at email@example.com