Though doing his best to make a name for himself in the infield, Frederick's Gera Alvarez sometimes wonders what life might have been like as a pitcher.

"I've always thought about it," Alvarez said. "I don't know, it would've been interesting to see if I had concentrated more on pitching."

Lately, the third-year pro has gotten a small taste, twice taking the mound in relief for the Class A Keys. In a recent 14-2 loss to Potomac, Alvarez -- who normally plays shortstop or second base -- came in for mop-up duty and struck out two hitters.

"I just have gone out and helped [manager] Tom [Lawless] out by throwing the last inning and saving some pitching," said Alvarez, who last year tossed a scoreless inning for lower Class A Delmarva.

Alvarez is no stranger to the mound. In high school, he was his league's pitcher of the year, then spent his first two years at Palomar College in California as a closer before transferring to Texas Tech.

When it came time for the pros, however, the former 16th-round selection knew his days on the mound were all but over.

"Unfortunately for me I'm not very tall, and it's hard for a guy that's not as big to compete with guys that are like 6-2 and 6-3," he said.

Alvarez entered play yesterday hitting .235, well below his career .261 average, but he was fourth on the team with 32 runs scored. He continues to pursue his college degree, taking classes in the fall at Texas Tech.

Alvarez, a sports science major with a minor in Spanish, is just 15 credit hours short of graduation.

"I'm not hitting as well as I want to hit . . . but I keep on trying to battle," said Alvarez, who added that the rare opportunities to pitch have been a pleasant diversion. "It looks easy to throw strikes, but in reality it's not. That's one thing I can do -- hit my spots real well. It kind of comes easy to me."