LOS ANGELES -- There is still little doubt that Pedro Alvarez, the organization's top prospect, will be playing at PNC Park sometime in 2010. However, he hasn't exactly sizzled thus far in his first taste of Triple-A.

After hitting a three-run homer in Indianapolis' loss on Friday, Alvarez finished April with a .224 average, five homers, two doubles and 15 RBIs. He struck out 25 times in 85 at-bats.

The numbers -- both for average and power -- aren't what the Pirates had predicted for Alvarez, who batted .333 with 31 extra-base hits in 60 games at Double-A last year. However, no one is concerned by his slow start either.

In fact, Alvarez went through the same April struggles last year with high Class A Lynchburg (Va.). The former first-round Draft pick hit just .219 during the first month of the '09 season before finding his way in May. And when he did get on track, Alvarez never slowed down.

"This is a guy who is trying to show that he is the player they think he is," Pirates director of development Kyle Stark said. "He's probably trying to do a little too much. He did the same thing last year and bounced out of it. I think last year should show that we're not going to panic based on the numbers."

The Pirates' two primary goals with Alvarez in Triple-A were to see improvements against left-handed pitching and strides made defensively. In his first 21 games with Indianapolis, Alvarez hit just .190 against southpaws.

As for the defense: "He has improved defensively," Stark said of Alvarez, who has committed four errors. "If he continues to improve physically, it will allow him to make some improvements defensively. We're encouraged by the progress."

Ohlendorf throws in extended spring game

LOS ANGELES -- Ross Ohlendorf took another step toward returning to the Pirates' rotation on Friday when he threw 43 pitches in an extended spring training game.

Ohlendorf's velocity touched as high as 94 mph in the outing, which was the right-hander's first game action since his April 7 start in Pittsburgh. Ohlendorf reported no discomfort or issues with his back afterward.

"It was very encouraging," said director of development Kyle Stark, who was on hand to watch Ohlendorf throw. "I was encouraged by the health, the way the ball came out of his hand and the progress to where he is at this point."

Ohlendorf will make a second Minor League rehab start on Wednesday, either with Double-A Altoona or high-A Bradenton. Assuming there are no setbacks, the righty will then return to the Pirates' rotation on May 10 to face the Reds in the opening game of a three-game series at PNC Park.

Worth noting

LOS ANGELES -- Triple-A starter Brad Lincoln was knocked around for six earned runs on seven hits in his start on Friday. The former first-round Draft pick walked four and struck out three. ... For the third time in the Pirates' past eight games, outfielder Lastings Milledge was out of the lineup on Friday. Though Milledge is hitting .350 with runners in scoring position this season, he has just four hits in his past 23 at-bats. ... The Pirates will have one open rotation spot for one more week while the club waits for Ross Ohlendorf to return on May 10. Manager John Russell did not announce who that spot starter would be, though he did confirm that Brian Burres remains a candidate. Burres tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings on Thursday.