Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez took another few steps in the right direction this week as he continues his recovery from a right quadriceps strain.
According to Jenifer Langosch, beat writer for MLB.com, the young infielder has now played four games at extended spring training in Bradenton, Florida and could be cleared to begin a minor league rehab assignment early next week.
Alvarez is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list Sunday, but the Pirates will almost certainly ask him to play several games at one of their minor league affiliates before they consider penciling his name back into the big league lineup.
The 24-year-old was batting just .208/.283/.304 with two homers in 36 games before the injury. He clearly needs to get his timing right at the plate, and a week-long stay at Triple-A Indianapolis should do the trick.