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Up Close with Pedro Alvarez

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It may have been more complicated than they expected, but the Pirates drafted Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez with the second overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft and signed him to a then-team record (for a draft pick) $6.4 million contract.

After nearly two seasons of dominating in the minors, Alvarez was called up to the big leagues on June 16, 2010. During his rookie season he had his ups—four homeruns in two games in July; a memorable walk-off homerun against the Rockies in August, National League Player of the Week in late September—and he has had his downs: striking out 22 times in his first 46 at bats; only one homerun on the road. But while he took his lumps, he also showed signs of the raw power that had all of baseball gushing on draft day. He took a break from watching an early-season SEC football match-up on the clubhouse big screen before a recent home game to reflect on his rookie season with PSR’s Joe Giardina.

Joe: You hear it all the time: young players have to learn how to win at the major league level. But how does it affect your development when the team struggles as it has this season?

Pedro:
I just try to come out here and learn as much as possible and try to see how I can contribute to the team every day. You can’t let a couple losses get in the way of the big picture, which is trying to win games and better ourselves every day.

Joe: From the day you were drafted people speculated that you eventually will have to make the move to first base. Do you see that happening, or do you feel like you somewhat get a bad rap defensively?

Pedro:
I just try to improve [defensively] as much as possible. I am feeling comfortable at third and I feel that I have learned a lot so far. I see myself playing third base for the rest of my career.

 

Joe: Diamondbacks’ third baseman Mark Reynolds has said many times that he doesn’t care if he strikes out, and he will swing as hard as he can no matter the count or situation. He just accepts that with great power comes a great amount of strikeouts. Is that something you just have to accept as part of the game?

Pedro:
You never want to accept strikeouts. I don’t want to strikeout, I just think it’s something I need to learn to cut down on – while still keeping the power. I don’t try to swing as hard as I can every time. It may come off that way sometimes, just because of the nature of my inexperience. And sometimes I just get a little anxious and try to do too much. But that’s not really what I am trying to do.

Joe: How has your approach at the plate changed in the few shorts months you have been with the Pirates?

Pedro:
I have just tried to not do too much. I’ve tried to stay within my game and stay straight through the ball… to see the ball well out over the plate and get good wood on it.

 

Joe: Whether you hit a walk-off homerun or go 0-4, you usually carry yourself the same way by not getting too high or too low. Is that something you do consciously, or is that just a reflection of your personality?

Pedro:
I think it’s a little bit of both. You have to try to keep it even keel. I’ve been taught from a young age to accept the highs and accept the lows. You have to know where you are at, you know? You have to always try to play with that same intensity because tomorrow is a new day and yesterday was just another day. You can’t look back, so you always have to be living in the present and take it day by day.

Joe: How inviting does that short right-field porch look for you when you step in the batter’s box? Is that something the pitchers can use against you?

Pedro:
You know, I don’t ever look out there and try to yank the ball or anything. Sometimes I may get out in front and it helps me out, but I’m definitely not consciously trying to hit anything over there.

Joe: How important will the experience you gained this year be for you going into your offseason training and even into next season?

Pedro:
It’s very important – to get my feet wet and to know what to expect for next year. Next year I will have so much more experience and hopefully I can start off on the right foot.

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