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Pirates notebook: Alvarez says he's fine with possible move to first base

| Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, 6:39 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez fields a ground ball at first base during batting practice Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, at PNC Park.

Pedro Alvarez still sees himself as a third baseman, and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Saturday that they aren't closing the book on him at the position he has played his entire professional career.

For now, however, the Pirates believe the best option they have for getting the struggling Alvarez back in the lineup on a regular basis is to work toward a move to first base.

“Will the opportunity to move to that side of the diamond give him some freedom defensively and offensively?” Hurdle said. “I don't know that. I don't think he knows that. I think the important takeaway here is he knows we want to find a way to get his bat in the lineup, and he wants to find a way for that to play out as well.”

Hurdle said they asked Alvarez to consider the move to first Friday after he came back from a three-day stint on the bereavement list.

Alvarez leads the league in errors with 24 — most of them on throws to first base — and in recent weeks Hurdle had begun removing him late in games. Hurdle said last week in Arizona that Alvarez no longer was the starting third baseman.

“I was OK with (the move),” said Alvarez, who said he played some shortstop in high school but has been a third baseman since he started college. “I'll do anything I can, everything I can, to help as much as I can. That's my job. That's everyone's job here. When the opportunity came up, it was a no-brainer . It just shows they want me, and if that's how I can help, that's what I'm going to do.”

There is no timetable for when Alvarez, who never has played first, might get in a game there. There are position-specific requirements and techniques to learn such as footwork, fielding bunts, assignments on relays and balls in the corner and how to prepare for balls thrown in the dirt.

Hurdle also said he won't yet worry about how playing Alvarez at first might impact the use of Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez, who has been taking balls at third.

“We haven't even found out if (Alvarez) can play there,” Hurdle said. “I believe he can, but we'll take it one step at a time.”

Still aching

Hurdle had no update on Neil Walker (sore lower back), saying Walker went in for treatment while he was on the field with Alvarez. Walker wasn't in the starting lineup but struck out in a pinch-hit appearance in the ninth.

Hurdle offered an update on Andrew McCutchen (rib).

“Andrew is doing better. He took swings. He ramped up the swings. More intensity. He threw up to 90 feet. We'll see how he feels (Sunday), but he took a couple big steps forward.”

Harrison OK

Josh Harrison started in left field Saturday, one day after injuring his ankle and hand when he was caught stealing in the fifth inning.

“I don't know if anybody feels full health at this point in the season, but I'm good to go,” he said.

Harrison led all major league players going into Saturday's game with 55 total bases since the All-Star break. He's hitting .367 since the break with seven doubles, two triples, five home runs, 10 RBIs and 18 runs.

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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