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Alvarez eagerly awaiting Bucs' home opener

Alvarez eagerly awaiting Bucs' home opener

Alvarez eagerly awaiting Bucs' home opener
CHICAGO -- Pedro Alvarez has already gotten a number of firsts out of the way. Few would have thought a stolen base would have been among them, but, indeed, the third baseman was the first Pirates player to swipe a bag in the 2011 season.

Remember that as an answer to future trivia questions.

He's still looking for that first home run -- bound to come soon -- but with four hits, four RBIs and one run scored in three games at Wrigley Field, Alvarez has had immediate success.

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But there's one more first he's anticipating: the club's home opener against the Rockies at 1:35 p.m. ET on Thursday. It will be his first home opener as a big leaguer.

Journey to Opening Day
• Pedro Alvarez, PIT, 3B
Part I | Part II | Part III
• Lance Berkman, STL, OF
Part I | Part II | Part III
• Carl Crawford, BOS, OF
  Adrian Gonzalez, BOS, 1B

Part I | Part II | Part III
• Freddie Freeman, ATL, 1B
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV
• Mitch Moreland, TEX, 1B
Part I | Part II | Part III
• Hunter Pence, HOU, OF
Part I | Part II | Part III
• Andres Torres, SF, OF
Part I | Part II | Part III

"They are great fans to play in front of," Alvarez said "I don't think there are any fans out there like the Pittsburgh fans. You can tell, obviously, with the Steelers and the Penguins and with us. I'm definitely very excited, and I feel very fortunate to be able to play in front of them this year."

It took Alvarez, the second pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, little time to be welcomed by Pirates nation. He received a stirring standing ovation before his first big league at-bat in 2010 and continued support all season. Knockoff Alvarez jerseys began appearing at PNC Park with much more regularity as the season progressed.

"It's a great sports town," Alvarez said. "I didn't expect anything less from Pirates fans, and they definitely didn't prove me wrong."

Understanding the city's standard for excellence, Alvarez has no plans to take the support for granted. He continues to be one of the first players to show up before a game to get in extra work, and he followed up a shaky defensive day on Friday with a pair of solid performances over the weekend.

His bat came alive, too, at a critical time for the Pirates in Sunday's 5-4 win. After already driving in a run earlier in the game, Alvarez's two-run single -- albeit an infield one -- turned out to be the game-winner.

"I'm just fortunate to feel comfortable up there, get an opportunity to play," Alvarez said. "I'm going to work hard enough that I keep getting more and more comfortable for the rest of my career. You can always learn more every day. I'm going to stick around these older guys who have been around for a while and get as much as I can from them.

"I'm very optimistic about the year, and think we're going to have a pretty good year."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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