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Moving Alvarez from spot at 3rd base discussed by Pirates

| Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, 5:15 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez throws out the Diamondbacks' Didi Gregorius during the third inning Thursday, July 3, 2014, at PNC Park.
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The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez makes a play on a bouncing ball against the Diamondbacks on Thursday, July 31, 2014, at Chase Field in Phoenix.

PHOENIX — Pedro Alvarez is out as the everyday third baseman, but the Pirates are not likely to consider a position change for him until after this season.

Alvarez was benched in the sixth inning of Saturday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks after making two erratic throws plus another throwing error. Josh Harrison started at third base on Sunday and likely will be there most of the time for at least the next couple of weeks.

“Whether (Alvarez) is unplugged or plugged, Harrison is more than a viable option,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Harrison is our best defender on the club right now at third base.”

Sunday, the Pirates signed free agent Jayson Nix, a utilityman who has extensive experience at third base.

Hurdle spoke by phone Sunday morning with general manager Neal Huntington about Alvarez's situation. Hurdle also huddled with assistant GM Kyle Stark, who was with the team in Arizona.

“It's a challenge right now, but we've got to figure out the best way to get (Alvarez's) bat in the lineup as much as we can,” Stark said. “There are some conversations that still need to be had amongst everybody involved.”

Alvarez is out of minor league options, so the Pirates cannot send him to Triple-A Indianapolis without putting him through waivers.

“As it is with any of our players, it's about trust,” Stark said. “Can we trust you to make the routine play? Guys have to win the manager's trust that they can do their job on a daily basis.”

Saturday, Alvarez made his major league-leading 24th error. All but three of his errors have come on wild throws.

“Anytime a player is struggling, I think it's a mix of mental, physical and fundamental,” Stark said. “A lot of guys go through stretches when the accuracy of their throws is not ideal. Pedro's going through that right now. I don't think he's abnormal in that regard. It's just that we're in a pennant race and it shows up a little bit more.”

Alvarez also went 0 for 3 on Saturday, including a strikeout with two runners on to end the sixth inning, which dropped his average to .235.

Last season, Alvarez tied for the National League lead with 36 home runs. He's hit 15 homers this year, but has gone deep just twice since July 1.

Even before the Pirates drafted Alvarez with the second overall pick in 2008, there were questions about his future at third base. He's made 109 errors in 550 games with the Pirates.

“People have been talking about position changes for Pedro for a while,” Stark said. “Our focus right now is the short term and figuring out how he can help this club on a nightly basis. We'll talk about position changes at some point, if we ever cross that bridge.”

When asked if he would be open to moving to first base, Alvarez said, “That hasn't been discussed,” as he turned and walked away.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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