Slow start
June 24, 2009


ERIE - Pedro Alvarez had a forgettable Curve debut, but he didn't forget his sense of humor afterward.

Asked if he was nervous during the game, the Pirates' prized prospect smiled and joked, "I think I was fine. Did I look nervous?"

Well, maybe not nervous, but certainly not anything special.

Strikeout. Short flyout. Strikeout. Strikeout.

An 0-for-4 performance with three punchouts isn't the stuff of Curve lore. It may be unfair to expect something spectacular out of a player in his first Double-A game, but lofty expectations will follow Alvarez every day of his career.

There will be lots of 0-for-4s in the future, no doubt, but Alvarez will never have another chance to make a first impression for the Curve.

Still, he described his debut as "fun, excited to be out there."

"Everything didn't go my way, but it happens," Alvarez added. "Tomorrow's another day, and I've just got to put today behind me."

Alvarez faced a steady diet of offspeed pitches his first three at-bats and did nothing with them. He struck out swinging in the first, lifted a lazy fly ball to center in the third and fanned looking in the fifth against Erie right-hander Thad Weber, who also was making his Double-A debut.

Alvarez saw 13 pitches and only four fastballs in those three at-bats. The word is undoubtedly out that the sweet-swinging prospect can hit a fastball, so it's unlikely he will see many of them in meaningful situations as the Curve's cleanup hitter.

"Everybody knows about Pedro, obviously being the No. 2 pick overall a year ago, and he's a pretty good hitter and has a pretty good track record," Weber said. "I tried to do my best to keep him off balance and tried to keep him from getting into a rhythm."

Alvarez already was used to that pitching philosophy at Single-A Lynchburg, and he knows he can expect more of the same surplus of junk offerings with the Curve.

"I'm prepared for that," he said, "and I've just got to make sure whenever I get the opportunity just to capitalize and try to put a good swing on a pitch."

Patience will be the key.

"When I am patient, I get my walks and I hit mistakes and everything works out well," Alvarez said. "I've just got to make sure I stay within myself and not try to do too much."

"He got pitched tough," Curve manager Matt Walbeck said. "I think there were some pitches there that may have caught him off guard a little bit. ... He may have pulled off a couple pitches early that he could have driven, maybe trying a little too hard or whatever. But nevertheless, just to have his presence in the box and on our team helps."

Alvarez saw five fastballs during his final at-bat in the eighth, but that one ended badly, as well.

He worked a 3-1 count against reliever Zach Simons and had his best swing of the night on a fastball down the middle. He fouled it straight back, then went down swinging on another fastball over the heart of the plate.

"I just missed some of those pitches," Alvarez said. "It could be a little anxiousness the first game."

That first game is now behind him, and he has 72 more in a Curve uniform this season. Tuesday's 0-for-4 struggles will be long forgotten by then - if Alvarez is anywhere near as good as he's projected.

"After a while, he gets his feet wet here, I think we're going to start to see him do some damage," Walbeck said.

One part of that process, the manager added, is helping Alvarez get into a daily routine. That had to be a little tough the past two days as the slugger had to drive north from Lynchburg and hold a press conference the evening before his first game with the Curve.

"I talked to P.J. Forbes, his manager in Lynchburg, and he said the big thing about Pedro is that he has a routine," Walbeck said. "So it's my job and [hitting coach Ryan Long's] job to get him started on a routine."

Alvarez said the main thing he realizes is, regardless of the level, it's still just baseball.

"The other guys get better," he said, "but hopefully you get better, as well."

Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and


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