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Pirates notebook: Similarity found in Alvarez throwing errors

| Saturday, July 12, 2014, 6:27 p.m.
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The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez commits a throwing error against the Reds on Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.

CINCINNATI — The Pirates do not know what is behind Pedro Alvarez's throwing issues, but they have identified one common thread: Alvarez's errant tosses are occurring on the same type of play.

For instance, in the seventh inning on Friday in Cincinnati, Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick hit a routine bouncing ball to Alvarez at third. Alvarez fielded the ball, had time to take a step and a half to the right, and he then let loose a wild throw that landed in the camera well adjoining the Reds' dugout. As soon as Alvarez let the ball go, he waved his throwing hand in disgust. It was Alvarez's MLB-leading 19th error, and 18 have been throwing errors. No other major leaguer has more than 10 throwing errors.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle noted the vast majority of the errant throws have come on routine plays, where Alvarez has time to collect himself and a take a step into his throws. They are plays in which Alvarez has time to think, hinting that the issues are perhaps psychological in nature. Hurdle said Alvarez is healthy.

On more difficult plays, in which Alvarez has had to dive or range far to make a play and quickly release a throw, his throws typically are accurate.

“Take the tapes of the (errors), and it's a very similar play for whatever reason,” Hurdle said. “He can't put his finger on it.”

The Pirates can't quite put their collective finger on it, either.

The Pirates have tried numerous throwing drills with Alvarez. They have tried simulating the type of play that has given him problems. They even have had him stop with the throwing program at times to give him a mental break. Thus far, nothing has worked.

“I don't know if anyone has the right assessment,” Hurdle said. “(Alvarez's) defense in St. Louis, there were three straight games (of quality plays): a bunt play bare-hand, a dive to the left, dive to the right, quick reactionary plays all over the place. It's this one particular play where it's a step to his right, or a step and a half to his right, set your feet and get a throw off that seems to be the similar fabric of the throw that has been challenging.”

Alvarez was unavailable to reporters prior to Saturday's game. The Pirates' plan going forward? It does not include any immediate plans to move Alvarez off third base, where his defensive range and hands have improved. He has made just one non-throwing error this season.

“We just have to keep working with him and try to recreate those events,” Hurdle said.

El Coffee hits wall

After a white-hot start to his career, Pirates prized rookie Gregory Polanco has slowed down. Polanco entered play Saturday hitting .237 in July with 13 strikeouts in his past 11 games. Hurdle pinch hit for Polanco against Aroldis Chapman on Friday night in part because of his struggles.

“Polanco is not swinging the bat very well right now,” Hurdle said. “I thought that would be a very challenging matchup (vs. Chapman). The league is punching back. He had it all figured out the first 10 days, according to everything I read. ... We are trying to get him, foundationally, solid: stand up tall at the plate, not a big swing, hit the ball hard where it's pitched. He's gotten away from that a little bit.”

Pepper games

Hurdle had no issue with the ruling that Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton was in the baseline when he avoided a Gaby Sanchez tag to reach safely Friday. “When you make your first attempt at a guy, he has 3 feet from that position,” Hurdle said. “He was not out of the baseline.” … The Pirates signed left-handed pitcher Rafael Perez, who has had success previously at the major league level with the Cleveland Indians. Perez has been assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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