All eyes on Pedro Alvarez in first true exhibition


While the annual Black & Gold game is a great affair, the true start of exhibition games in spring training is marked by facing off against another actual major-league club.  The Toronto Blue Jays host the Pirates today at their spring training home in Dunedin, FL.  Tom Singer of has all the details here.  For an exhibition game, this one is surely not lacking in story-lines.  Not only will it be our first look at Russell Martin wearing Blue Jay blue, but we will also get our first look at Pedro Alvarez at first base in 2015.

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After much hand-wringing in 2014, the Pirates coaching staff finally gave in to the only viable way to keep Pedro’s bat in the offense.  Yes, the move to first base was wrought with peril, but Alvarez acquitted himself rather well, albeit in a very short sample size.  To refresh your memory, El Toro appeared in five games at first base in 2014.  During those five games, his fielding percentage came in at a very nice, round number:  1.000.  Your eyes do not deceive you.  Pedro had 32 defensive chances over 37 innings of work, and answered the bell with 31 putouts and one assist.  At first glance, one can be very encouraged by these numbers.  It would be hard pressed not to be impressed, if only at Alvarez’s mental state.  After many miserable months of error after error and shrinking production at the plate, Pedro took to first and gave it an honest shot.  While highlights of Pedro at first are rare, he had some nice picks, even in warmups:

Today, after the shock of seeing Martin wearing a different cap fades, our eyes will then turn to Pedro Alvarez with every routine ground-out, every pop in foul territory, and every dicey throw from third to first.  Our confidence will build every time we see him make a routine play.  That confidence will be tested with each missed opportunity.  We will force ourselves to say the words “It’s only spring training,” and will bite our tongues every time we want to rush to judgment.  It will be a true roller-coaster.

Even with his decision to not play winter ball to get more seasoning at the position, the 2015 version of Pedro Alvarez gets a rare opportunity for an established big-league player:  a second chance at a first impression.

Next: Black & Gold game recap