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After missing final spring games, Alvarez at cleanup

After missing final spring games, Alvarez at cleanup

PITTSBURGH -- Pedro Alvarez played in a Grapefruit League game on Tuesday -- then disappeared. As he sat out exhibition after exhibition, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle simply said his third baseman was "working on some things."

The end-of-Spring Training retreat was unusual, particularly for someone who had been experiencing a respectable camp, with a .277 average that included a pair of homers.

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Alvarez was in the Opening Day lineup's No. 4 slot against the Cubs and Jeff Samardzija on Monday. Other than the timing, apparently there was nothing mysterious or secretive about Alvarez's timeout. In fact, Hurdle said he was back in the lineup for the final exhibition on Saturday, canceled by inclement weather.

"We were working on some swinging mechanics. And also just giving him some time, since we put him to task," Hurdle said. "He's ready. I'm looking forward to having him anchor down the middle of that lineup. He's in a good place."

For Hurdle, there's no better place than the cleanup spot. He has looked forward to Alvarez finding a home in a slot that has proven challenging in the past: Alvarez batted .218 in 46 games at cleanup in 2013, and he has a career average of .183 there.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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