BRADENTON, Fla. -- Making every effort to put himself in position for a successful first full season in the Majors, third baseman Pedro Alvarez continues to spend numerous extra hours working on his approach and plate discipline in these waning days of March.
No better was this on display than on Monday and Wednesday. More than an hour after Alvarez had exited Monday's game, he remained at McKechnie Field to take extra batting practice with manager Clint Hurdle and hitting coach Gregg Ritchie.
Asked to relay the focus of the session, Hurdle said: "Sometimes you have to find a way to slow the game down. When you're behind the fastball and ahead of the soft stuff, it's a very uncomfortable place to be. Sometimes you get up there and just have too much going on. All the thinking needs to be done on-deck. Once you get in the batter's box, you need to compete."
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In addition to the preparation, Alvarez said one particular emphasis is to try to use the bigger part of the field more consistently.
There seemed to be some immediate and tangible evidence that information passed along during the extra hitting sessions is clicking for Alvarez, too. After striking out in his first two at-bats Wednesday, the third baseman knocked a home run over the center-field wall. Alvarez came to the plate against a left-hander his next time up and patiently drew a walk, just his second of the spring.
"I've been making some strides, though I still have a little work to do before the season starts," Alvarez said. "I think it's gone pretty well."
The Pirates are hopeful that Alvarez's work to improve his approach will naturally help him reduce his strikeout total, too. Alvarez has struck out 21 times in 53 at-bats this spring.
"The offspeed stuff has challenged him a little right now," Hurdle said. "The fastballs, he's getting into a better position. He's worked very hard on his approach. He's a big league hitter in progress. Once he gets in a groove, the noise gets loud. He might be one of those guys who has to keep trying to get a little bit better at [making contact].
"It's a work in progress," Hurdle added, "but I think it's headed in the right direction."