Alvarez plans to learn from tough season

Alvarez plans to learn from tough season

Alvarez plans to learn from tough season
PITTSBURGH -- Forgettable as 2011 may have been, Pedro Alvarez intends to remember it all.

The offensive skids. The injuries. The mental strains. The unfulfilled expectations and untapped potential.

Yep, every bit of it.

"I don't think you can forget about stuff like that," said Alvarez, who returned to Pittsburgh to participate in PirateFest this weekend. "I have always been a big believer in taking everything you can out of every situation, good or bad, and getting a positive out of everything."

Alvarez certainly is seeking positives, as are the Pirates, who have not altered their stance that Alvarez will enter the season as Plan A. While the club has a capable contingency option with Casey McGehee, Alvarez will get the first crack at being the team's everyday third baseman.

The belief is that Alvarez, 24, has not lost the ability to be an impact hitter and a proficient defender, even if he stays at third base. Still, surprisingly, it remains tough to get Alvarez -- or anyone from the organization -- to pinpoint what was behind his struggles in 2011.

The answers typically come as generalities, not specifics. But there is a sense that the complications had as much to do with the mental strain of living up to expectations as they did dealing with any physical issues. That's largely why the Pirates did not push him to play winter ball this offseason, preferring that Alvarez take the down time to instead clear his head.

It's worth noting, too, that Alvarez is hardly the first player to endure growing pains after making a Major League team out of Spring Training for the first time.

"I think it was just one of those things that was a learning adjustment," Alvarez said. "Hopefully, it's one of those things that if you deal with it early in your career, you don't have to deal with it again. For now, I think it's just a matter of how I go about it, what I can take out of it and move on from there."

Injuries and a pair of demotions to Triple-A limited Alvarez to 74 games with Pittsburgh in 2011. He hit just .191 with nine doubles, four homers and 19 RBIs. Alvarez struck out about once in every three at-bats, while walking just 24 times.

His struggles on offense were so pronounced that only minimal attention was paid to Alvarez's defense, which was expected to be the bigger question mark. While he is still far from Gold Glove caliber, Alvarez certainly has not proven to be a liability in the field. As a result, no position switch is in the plans at the moment.

Alvarez has been spending most of the offseason in Southern California, where he has been following a strict five-days-a-week workout routine. The focus has been primarily on increasing mobility, flexibility and agility. He appeared slimmer as a result of all the work.

He recently began hitting again, and that work will increase as Spring Training approaches. Alvarez said he also plans to report to Bradenton, Fla., well in advance of the Spring Training report date to continue his work there.

"I think toward the end of the year I was starting to feel a little better," Alvarez said. "I was feeling better at the plate and seeing the ball better. I think it was just trying to get my feet under myself and start on a new page and kind of pick up where I left off."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for 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.