Pirates' Alvarez nearing first base debut

Rob Biertempfel
| Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 5:21 p.m.

It will not be long before Pedro Alvarez gets his first taste of game action at first base, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Monday.

“He's working his backside off to find a level of comfort and say, ‘OK. I'm ready to go over there in a major league game,' ” Hurdle said. “I think we're real close to that. There will be a day here soon when you'll see him over there.”

Alvarez, whose erratic throws cost him the starting job at third base, is taking lessons at first base every day before batting practice.

Alvarez worked for about a half-hour Monday with coaches Dave Jauss and Nick Leyva. Looking relaxed and smooth, Alvarez fielded grounders and made different throws to second base, first base and home plate.

“There is a point in time where you've got to find out where you are,” Hurdle said. “You can do all the practice drills you want. When you get into a game, you always have an opportunity to identify some areas you've got to work on.”

Alvarez's first base debut probably will not happen before this weekend, when the Pirates play a road series against the Washington Nationals.

Alvarez was on the bench for Monday night's home game against the Detroit Tigers. When the Pirates play interleague games in Detroit on Wednesday and Thursday, he likely will be used as the designated hitter.

Management opted to try the position switch as a way to get Alvarez's power bat back in the lineup for more than just pinch-hitting appearances.

“Anytime a person struggles ... it's not fun to watch,” first baseman Ike Davis said. “It hurts. You know the guy's trying as hard as he possibly can.

“Petey's a good enough athlete that he'll be a good first baseman. He'll probably be really amazing at it. But it takes a little time to get used to being around the bag and your footwork, avoiding runners and different kinds of things.”

Alvarez has spent a good amount of time working on his footwork and situational positioning, receiving pickoff throws and making lobs when the pitcher covers the bag.

“The position isn't all that hard to play, but it's very hard to play well,” general manager Neal Huntington said.

Davis smiled and admitted the defensive demands are not as great at first base as at third.

“You don't have to throw that much, which is good,” Davis said. “You're in every play. When your third baseman or shortstop makes a great play and throws the ball 100 mph across the diamond, you're expected to pick everything. If you don't, it's like you're the one who messed it up.”

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

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