By John Perrotto
Pedro Alvarez knows the expectations.
The slugging third baseman understands that Pirates’ fans see him as the savior of the franchise, the left-handed hitter who can wallop baseballs over the right-field stands at PNC Park and into the Allegheny River, the guy who can turn around a team hasn’t had a winning season since 1992.
However, Alvarez, who turns 23 on Saturday, is the least bit overwhelmed by the great things expected of him.
“I want the same things, too,” Alvarez said. “I want to play in the major leagues and be the type of player who makes a difference. I want to get to Pittsburgh and help make the Pirates a winner again. I’m not any different than the fans and I’m going to work hard to be the best player I can be. Nobody puts more pressure on me than I put on myself. “
The will to get better is why Alvarez spent most of the winter following his first season of professional baseball working out at the Athletes Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz. He underwent a daily regimen that included waking up at 6 a.m., going through a strenuous morning workout and another one equally as difficult in the afternoon while also having his diet strictly supervised.
The best part is that Alvarez, who is listed at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds on the Pirates’ roster, took the initiative to go to API.
“Nobody made me do this,” Alvarez said. “I had heard so many great things about the place from other players that I decided I should go there and train. I really believe if you want to be the best at anything, whether it’s being a baseball player or any other profession, you have to push yourself to the very limits. I feel I’ve done that.”
Much was made of Alvarez being 30 pounds overweight when he reported to the Pirates’ Florida Instructional League camp in October, 2008. Alvarez had sat out the summer in a contract holdout after being the second overall pick in that year’s amateur draft from Vanderbilt and his ability to work out had been limited by tendinitis in both knees.
Alvarez lost weight prior to reporting to spring training last year then was the Pirates’ minor-league player of the year as he hit a combined .288 with 27 home runs and 95 RBIs in 126 games with high Class A Lynchburg and Class AA Altoona. However, the Pirates ask Alvarez to lose 10 more pounds at the end of the season.
“I’m not worried about my weight, it’s kind of like a batting average in baseball because it doesn’t tell the full story of the hitter,” Alvarez said. “My main concern is being in the best shape possible and I feel I am.”
The Pirates have monitored Alvarez’s progress all winter and are excited to see exactly what he looks like when he reports to Bradenton, Fla., later this month for the start of spring training.
“He has worked hard and his body composition has improved,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “He will always need to be diligent about his condition because of his body type but we knew that when we drafted him. He has shown the willingness to work hard at his conditioning and we’re obviously very pleased about that.”