PITTSBURGH -- Orioles slugger Pedro Alvarez returned to PNC Park Sept. 26, the first time he's been there since the Pittsburgh Pirates decided not to tender him a contract after the 2015 season.
It's been an interesting couple of seasons for Alvarez since he left Pittsburgh. After hitting 111 home runs from 2012-2015, including a National League-leading 36 in 2013, Alvarez found himself without suitors.
It wasn't until early March 2016 that the third baseman/first baseman signed a contract with the Orioles. As the club's principal designated hitter in 2016, Alvarez hit 22 home runs and batted .249 to help the Orioles make the postseason.
Late last year, Orioles manager Buck Showalter advised him to try to learn the outfield to make himself more marketable.
Alvarez had even less interest from teams this spring, and ended up agreeing to a minor league contract with the Orioles in March. Alvarez played right field in spring training and began the season in right for Triple-A Norfolk before the experiment was abandoned and he moved to first base and designated hitter.
Alvarez hit 26 home runs and drove in 89 runs for the Tides. Somewhat surprisingly, there were no major league offers for the 30-year-old.
"I was working on the versatility of my game, and I'm just glad to be up here now," Alvarez said.
"... No one can put more expectations on myself than myself. Some people have that belief, but I know for a fact I always tried to do the best I can. In terms of pressure, all that stuff is external. I try to worry about what I can do, what I can control and the attitude and effort I put forward to improve my game, and that's always what's mattered to me and that's what's always going to matter to me."
Showalter said he was "really surprised that somebody along the way didn't take him."
"We just didn't have a spot for him," Showalter said. "It bodes well for his future. I still think he's going to be a contributor to a major league team next year.
"I've been really impressed with him this year down in Norfolk, the teammate he was, the professional he was, the effort he was. He's trying to present himself as an option at different places. He's got plenty of arm strength. He's got plenty of athleticism. Someone's got to give him a chance."
In 11 games since joining the Orioles Sept. 1, Alvarez, who did not play during the 10-1 loss to the Pirates Sept. 26, is batting .286 with a home run and two RBIs.
Alvarez was taken second overall in the 2008 draft by the Pirates, one spot after the Tampa Bay Rays selected current Orioles shortstop Tim Beckham.
"I started my career here, so it's good to come here and see all these guys," Alvarez said.
Alvarez, whose first manager in the majors when he debuted with the Pirates in 2010 was current Orioles bench coach John Russell, has high praise for Showalter.
"It's been a good experience," Alvarez said. "The knowledge that he has for the game, he knows the game so well. To be able to be managed by a manager like that, it's an honor, it's a privilege. We've got a great group of guys here. From Day One they made me feel like I've been on the team for 10 years, so that always helps.
"Buck's a great manager to play for. Obviously, he just wants everybody to play the game the right way, and as long as you do that, you're doing right by him."