Alvarez hopes early work will mean better results


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The work starts early for Pedro Alvarez.

Sometimes the alarm goes off at 7 a.m. After breakfast, Alvarez hits the gym, a facility in Newport Beach, Calif., owned by the Boras Corporation that represents him, and will sometimes spend up to two and a half hours working out.

"More working on functional strength, flexibility and mobility, less weights," Alvarez said at the David L. Lawrence convention center Friday before the start of PirateFest. "Trying to stay light on my feet."

That work could help his efforts to rebound from a 2011 season replete with injuries and struggles at the plate. Alvarez hit .191 in 235 at-bats and missed time because of a right quadriceps strain. When his leg improved, the Pirates optioned him to Class AAA Indianapolis so he could right himself, but he hit .200 in August and .171 in September.

Now, after several weeks of working out in California, Alvarez, who appeared in good shape Friday, is ready to move on.

"It's trying to take as much as I can from last year," he said. "Good or bad, take the positive out of everything."

Alvarez, 24, created high expectations for himself with his performance in the minors and in his 2010 rookie year. After the Pirates selected him with the second overall pick of the 2008 draft, Alvarez live up to the Pirates expectations for him as a power-hitting third baseman in 2009, hitting 27home runs while in Class A and AA. He started the 2010 season in Indianapolis and hit 13 home runs in 242 at-bats before making his Pirates debut in June. He adjusted to major league pitching quickly enough to hit .256 with 16 home runs and 64 RBIs, including hitting .306 with six homers and 27 RBIs in September.

Following a dismal four-homer, 19-RBI 2011, the Pirates still see his potential.

"We're committed to Pedro as long as he's doing what he needs to do," general manager Neal Huntington said during the winter meetings. "The reality is he's got the ability to be a great player. We've got to work hard to help him achieve that ceiling and achieve that potential."

Huntington said the Pirates keep in contact with Alvarez's trainer and believed his program would prepare him for next season.

"He has his mind made up where he wants to be in spring training, what kind of weight he's looking to target and what kind of shape he needs to be in to increase his agility, his first-step quickness," manager Clint Hurdle said during the winter meetings. "He's doing a very complex and big-time set of training skills out there."

Alvarez opted against playing winter ball this offseason despite playing in 116 combined games between the majors and the minors in 2011, but said he started hitting after his morning workouts.

"Some days I'll hit for 10 minutes, some days I'll hit for an hour," he said. "I'll typically be done around noon and then I have the rest of the day just to hang out."

In case injury strikes again, or Alvarez struggles in 2012, the Pirates traded for Milwaukee's Casey McGehee, who provides a right-handed complement to both Alvarez and first baseman Garrett Jones. Adding McGehee and outfielder Nate McLouth, Alvarez said, gives the team more viable options than it had in 2010.

"Last year was freaky to see how many guys got hurt," Alvarez said. "To do as well as we did with so [much] adversity just shows you what kind of team we're capable of [being]. To have such quality depth, I think it's a very special opportunity."

Alvarez watched this offseason while the team pursued players to bolster the club. The way the front office approached the task -- its aggressive pursuit of free agents, including McLouth, shortstop Clint Barmes, catcher Rod Barajas and left-handed starter Erik Bedard -- was not new to him.

"Every year I just keep seeing the progress and that's something that has been addressed since Day 1," he said. "It just shows you the kind of investment they have in the success of the team."

About two months remain until the earliest portions of spring training begin. During that time, Alvarez will continue to train, continue to hit and continue to work on avoiding the issues that plagued him in 2011.

"This offseason, kind of start off fresh and work on some things that need to be worked on," he said, "and start off the year brand new."


Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com or Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published December 18, 2011 5:00 AM


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