Top prospect Pedro Alvarez could join Pirates as soon as tomorrow

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UPDATE: Sure enough, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that the Pirates will up Alvarez in time for Wednesday’s game.
Within the past three weeks the Pirates have called up prospects Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, and Brad Lincoln, and general manager Neil Huntington has indicated that Pedro Alvarez could join them in Pittsburgh as soon as this week. In fact, Conlin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that Alvarez could be promoted as soon as tomorrow.
Alvarez was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft and has played exclusively third base in the minors, so the clock is ticking on Andy LaRoche’s days as a starter. LaRoche was once a top prospect himself, but his stock has steadily declined and he’s now 26 years old with a measly .231 AVG/.312 OBP/.347 SLG line in 1,148 plate appearances.
Had LaRoche shown more promise this year the Pirates might be less inclined to push Alvarez to the majors until the second half, but LaRoche is dangerously close to flat-out bust territory and Alvarez is crushing Triple-A pitching to the tune of .285/.370/.549. That mark in 64 games at Triple-A is essentially identical to his .288/.379/.535 line in 126 games between Single-A and Double-A last season, with Alvarez averaging 31 homers and 37 doubles per 500 at-bats.
High strikeout rates and so-so batting averages are concerns, but Alvarez has shown good plate discipline along with the excellent power and his left-handed bat should eventually slot in the middle of Pittsburgh’s lineup. Not only do the Pirates rank second-worst in the league with just 45 homers in 63 games this season, they haven’t had a 35-homer hitter since Jason Bay in 2006.

Steve Delabar among three suspended after testing positive

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Three players were suspended on Monday after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. They are: Indians pitcher Steve Delabar, Mariners pitcher Jonathan Aro, and free agent pitcher Jeffry Hernandez. Aro got a 50-game suspension while the other two were handed 80-game suspensions.

Delabar, 33, hasn’t pitched yet this season after signing a minor league deal with the Indians back in January. He spent last year with the Reds as well as the Hiroshima Carp in the Japan Central League. The right-hander has struggled over the last few seasons.

Aro, 26, also hasn’t appeared yet this season in the minors. He’s worked mostly in relief. The right-hander appeared briefly in the majors with the Mariners last season and logged 10 1/3 innings in the show with the Red Sox in 2015. Aro went to the Mariners along with Wade Miley in the trade that brought the Red Sox Carson Smith and Roenis Elias.

Hernandez, 22, is a free agent and his suspension will be effective if and when he signs with a new team.

Phillies place Aaron Nola on the disabled list

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The Phillies announced on Monday that starter Aaron Nola has been placed on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to April 21, with a lower back strain.

Nola, 23, compiled a 4.50 ERA with a 15/6 K/BB ratio over his first three starts spanning 16 innings. He felt some back soreness during his last start on Thursday against the Mets, and it lingered when he had a side session on Sunday.

CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury hears that the Phillies are likely to call up Nick Pivetta from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take Nola’s place in the rotation. Nola was scheduled to start on Wednesday.

Pivetta, 24, was acquired from the Nationals in the Jonathan Papelbon trade in July 2015. At Triple-A so far, Pivetta has given up only two earned runs on 12 hits and two walks with 24 strikeouts in 19 innings.