Continuing through the Pirates' minor league pitching ranks:

Gabriel Alvarado --  R/R,  6' 2",  175 lb 
Alvarado is a Venezuelan native who made his US debut in 2008 after two seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League.  He moved up to West Virginia for 2009, where he pitched mostly as a starter, with an additional 4 relief appearances.  He earned a 6-10 record and a 5.05 ERA, and in 114 innings, he allowed 135 hits, 64 runs, and 33 walks (2.6 walks/ 9 innings), with 96 strikeouts (7.6 K/ 9 innings).  Alvarado returned to West Virginia for 2010, but this time made just 4 starts and the rest of the time pitched in relief.  He earned a 3-5 record, with 5 saves and a 4.21 ERA.  He threw 83.1 innings, and allowed 86 hits, 39 earned runs, and 26 walks (2.8 walks/ 9 innings), with 60 strikeouts (6.5 K/ 9 innings, a bit down from the previous season).  Alvarado is going to turn 24 years old in May.  He did not shown a lot of progress last season, but he now has two seasons of A-level experience.  With the crowd that is going to be looking for a spot in the West Virginia bullpen, Alvarado will probably begin the season at A+ Bradenton, due to that experience.  He'll need to get going and get the strikeouts up.  


Maurice Bankston --  R/R,  6' 4",  205 lb 
Bankston was the Pirates' 8th round pick in the 2007 draft.  He pitched for the GCL Pirates in 2007 and at State College in 2008, then moved up to West Virginia to begin the 2009 season.  He struggled in 9 starts there (1-4 and 4.98 ERA, and 48 hits in 43.1 innings), and was moved back to State College later in the season.  He made another 9 starts for the Spikes with better results:  2-4, 2.34 ERA, and 54 hits in 50 innings.  He struck out 25 batters at both levels.  Bankston returned to West Virginia for the 2010 season, but made just 2 starts, and like Alvarado, was moved to the bullpen.  He began the season well, with a 2.93 ERA in 6 relief appearances and 13 hits in 15.1 innings in April.  He slipped to a 4.41 ERA in 6 relief appearances and one start in June, with 16 hits in 18.1 innings.  June was a horrible month for Bankston, with an exploding ERA over 11, and 31 hits in 17.1 innings.  He settled back down for the rest of the season, as he earned a 3.29 ERA in July and finished the season with a 1.32 ERA for August.  Bankston finished the season with a 4.68 ERA and a 7-4 record with 3 saves.  In 82.2 innings, he allowed 43 earned runs and 85 hits.  He walked 29 batters (3.2 walks/ 9 innings), and struck out 58 batters (6.3 K/ 9 innings).  Bankston is in a similar position to Alvarado -- he'll turn 24 in the middle of the 2011 season, and despite not having made a lot of progress in the past couple of seasons, he will likely begin the 2011 season in Bradenton's bullpen.  

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