By John Perrotto
Pedro Alvarez may go on to great things some day. In fact, the Pirates are counting on it as they see the slugging left-handed third baseman as one of the centerpieces, along with second-year center fielder Andrew McCutchen, of a youth movement that has started in earnest in recent weeks.
However, Alvarez’s major-league debut was anything but great.. The 23-year-old went 0-for-2 with a walk, a strikeout and an error as the Pirates’ losing streak reached 10 games when they fell 7-2 to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night at PNC Park.
Alvarez was recalled earlier in the day from Class AAA Indianapolis. With his parents, sister and fiancé looking on, he hit sixth in the Pirates’ batting order against White Sox left-hander John Danks.
Though he went hitless, Alvarez showed good plate discipline as he saw six pitches in each of his three plate appearances. His first time up in the second inning, Alvarez struck out swinging at a 3-2 fastball.
He then walked on a full-count pitch in the fifth inning. In the seventh, Alvarez flied out to left field on a 2-2 pitch. He was on deck when Ryan Doumit grounded into a game-ending double play.
“I thought Pedro had really good at-bats,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “He didn’t chase the pitcher’s pitches. That doesn’t surprise me, though. Pedro is a very good hitter and has a really good idea of what he wants to do at the plate.”
Alvarez admitted he was a little nervous going into the game but relied on the advice of two close friends, Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price and Texas Rangers first baseman Justin Smoak. Alvarez and Price played together in college at Vanderbilt and Smoak was Alvarez’s teammate on Team USA during their college days.
“They both told me that it was the same game I’ve always played and that’s the way I tried to approach the game,” Alvarez said. “I was excited, there was no doubt, but I tried to take it like any other at-bat once I got into the batter’s box.”
Alvarez’s night ended on a bad note as he missed a throw from Doumit, the catcher, as Juan Pierre stole third base in the ninth inning and went on to score the game’s final run on the play.
Alvarez’s error was the Pirates’ sixth of the game and fourth in the inning. It marked just the 15th time in the franchise’s 124-year history that the Pirates made as many as six errors in a game.
“Pedro is going to be a work in progress defensively at this level,” Russell said. “He’ll have some rough patches but there is going to be some more development for all of our young players.”
To make room for Alvarez on the roster, the Pirates designated second baseman Aki Iwamura for assignment. Iwamura lost his starting job to rookie Neil Walker two weeks ago and was hitting .182 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 54 games.
The Pirates have 10 days to trade, release or outright Iwamura to Indianapolis. If the Pirates are unable to trade Iwamura and he clears waivers, a virtual certainty considering his $4.85 million salary, he has agreed to report to Indy.
“Our goal for Aki to be in the major leagues, either with another team or with us if can get back on track at Indianapolis,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said.
John Perrotto is the editor-in-chief of BaseballProspectus.com and baseball columnist at the Beaver County Times.