Pirates manager Clint Hurdle used 134 different lineups last season, which meant anyone could wind up almost anywhere in the batting order on a given day.

Pedro Alvarez most often hit sixth (82 games), although he was also slotted as low as seventh (14 games) and as high as second (one game). He batted in the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in 24 games apiece.

Hitting 30 home runs last season established Alvarez as the team's top slugger — arguably the only bona fide threat in the lineup. Andrew McCutchen hit 31 homers, but he is more of a superb hitter with power than a true power hitter. Garrett Jones went deep 27 times, but he's a platoon player.

Hurdle is convinced that the Pirates won't blossom into more than just a .500-flirting team until Alvarez becomes the everyday cleanup hitter.

“We are going to be best served when he evolves and takes ownership of that spot,” Hurdle said. “It's something we've already talked about to see how it plays out in spring training. You'd like to find a guy you can put in that spot and leave him alone, and he's definitely a guy that we're considering.”

In three-quarters of the games he's started over the past three seasons, Alvarez has batted either fifth or sixth. He's hit more often in the 7-hole (40 games) than he has at cleanup (34 games).

“When you're a kid playing this game, the best player on the team is the cleanup hitter,” Alvarez said. “That position carries a lot of weight. But where you can get in trouble is acknowledging how much weight that position carries. When you put too much emphasis on it or worry too much about it, that's when guys tend to press and make it hard on themselves.”