04/09/09 10:30 PM ET
Alvarez shines in eagerly awaited debut
Pirates' No. 1 pick drives in four in first Minor League game
By Danny Wild / MLB.com
Alvarez, the Pirates' first-round pick in the 2008 Draft, went 3-for-4, drove in four runs and fell a triple shy of the cycle in his Minor League debut Thursday to power the Lynchburg Hillcats past the visiting Potomac Nationals, 6-5.
"To say that I wasn't nervous, I would be lying," Alvarez said. "But I think it was more nerves because of the thrill and the excitement -- I was giddy after that first pitch. It's been a while since I've played."
The 22-year-old, batting third in the Hillcats lineup, singled in his second professional at-bat to lead off the fourth inning and scored moments later on Miles Durham's triple.
The third baseman slugged a two-run homer to center off reliever Andrew Kown in the sixth and added a two-run double to center in the seventh.
Not a bad way to start a career.
"I was just trying to stick to my approach, stick to my game -- swing at strikes and be selective," Alvarez said. "If I'm going to get out, it'll be swinging at a strike, not a pitcher's pitch."
The approach worked in the sixth when a deep drive to center ended a lengthy at-bat.
"I saw a lot of pitches, but again I was trying to lock in, not on a pitch but just to make contact with two strikes," the Vanderbilt product explained. "I wanted to put the ball in play and, again, I was fortunate to put good wood on a good pitch."
Alvarez, the No. 2 overall pick last June, brushed off his debut and the buzz surrounding it, saying he was just glad, like everyone else in the ballpark, that baseball was back.
"There's nothing like the first official game," he said. "I was definitely excited, I've been looking forward to it for a long time."
So were the Pirates. There were times last summer, however, when Pittsburgh fans worried when that debut would come, if ever. Alvarez and agent Scott Boras did not see eye-to-eye with the Pirates on a contract in June. After several months of negotiating, the two sides finally ironed out a four-year, $6.35 million in late September. He attended Major League camp this spring and was assigned to Class A Advanced Lynchburg in mid-March.
"My parents came down to Spring Training and I went hitless in a few games, but every time I got a hit, I would overhear them saying, 'When is my son going to get a couple hits in a game?'" Alvarez joked. "But I think people were just excited that the season was starting. I was glad to see everyone out there."
Alvarez put up big numbers at Vanderbilt -- he hit .386 in 2007 and .317 last year -- and was selected right after high school shortstop Tim Beckham went to Tampa Bay in the Draft. He went 8-for-18 with a homer and five RBIs in 14 Grapefruit League games with the Pirates before shifting to Minor League camp.
The Pirates obviously have big plans for the slugging third baseman, but with 10 months between the Draft and his first professional at-bat, the club -- and Alvarez -- know he won't be rushed to the Steel City. He's moved into an apartment in Lynchburg, ready to host his parents and enjoy his new home.
"I like it. It's not New York City, but it's a lot of fun so far," Alvarez said while adjusting the GPS system in his car. A new town, of course, needs to be explored. "It's been great and, hopefully, it stays that way. The people have been awesome, so right now I have zero complaints."
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.