Alvarez homers, Pirates beat Blue Jays 8-7
DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) Pedro Alvarez hit a three-run shot and Korean rookie Jung Ho Kang connected for his first major league homer, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to an 8-7 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday in the exhibition opener for both teams.
Alvarez's drive came in the first inning off Aaron Sanchez after Gregory Polanco singled and Starling Marte reached on an error by new Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson.
Sanchez, a candidate for the starting rotation, yielded four hits, five runs - two earned - and walked one in 1 1-3 innings.
Alvarez added an RBI double in the fifth. The 2013 All-Star missed most of September last season with a stress fracture in his left foot and was left off Pittsburgh's postseason roster. He batted .231 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs in 122 games.
''It was good to see,'' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ''It's our first exhibition game, so we need to keep a dose of reality on everything we do. I love the way we came out swinging the bats aggressively. We were good within the strike zone with the barrel.''
The Pirates bid $5 million for the rights to Kang, then signed him to a four-year, $11 million contract in January. The shortstop hit 40 homers in 117 games with the Nexus Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization last year.
''I tried not to be nervous, but I enjoyed the game and enjoyed the little moment,'' Kang said through a translator.
Pirates: Right-hander Casey Sadler tossed two no-hit innings, walking Edwin Encarnacion in the second. Sadler gave up nine earned runs in six games of relief as a rookie last season.
Blue Jays: Sanchez threw 36 pitches. He said his objective was to work on his curveball and wasn't concerned with the rocky start.
''Being a starter, you've got to incorporate every single pitch,'' Sanchez said. ''I had a chance to put some guys away. One was a hit, but right where I need to be. This is the first game of spring training, so just build off that and it can only get better from there.''
Pirates: First baseman Corey Hart will likely not make his spring debut until Monday after he cut his foot on a loose filter while getting into a hot tub on Sunday. Hart, who signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract as a free agent in December, received three stitches to close the wound.
Right-hander Brandon Crumpton has been experiencing elbow discomfort since Saturday and will meet with Dr. James Andrews for an examination next week. The 26-year-old said he first noticed the problem while throwing batting practice.
Blue Jays: Left-hander Johan Santana started his throwing program, playing catch with team medical trainer George Poulis in the outfield before the game. The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner is in camp on a minor league deal. Santana has not pitched in the majors since August 2012 because of shoulder problems and a torn left Achilles tendon he sustained with Baltimore during extended spring training last June.
FAMILIAR FACE, NEW PLACE
Three-time All-Star catcher Russell Martin made his Blue Jays debut against his former club, going 1 for 3 with a single to left in the fifth. Martin spent the last two seasons with Pittsburgh, before signing a five-year, $82 million deal with Toronto in November
GOOD TO BE BACK
Vernon Wells is back with the Blue Jays until Thursday as a guest instructor to help mentor younger players. The three-time All-Star outfielder retired after last season, following a 15-year career with the Blue Jays, Angels and Yankees.
Wells said he had interest from several teams to return to the majors in a reserve role, but he decided it was the time was right to step away to spend more time with his family and coach his sons in youth baseball.
Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman makes his spring debut on Wednesday against the Pirates in Bradenton. The 23-year-old righty enjoyed a solid rookie campaign with Toronto last season, winning 11 games in 20 starts.