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Pirates notebook: Hurdle weighs trio at 1st base

| Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 4:48 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez fields a ground ball during the fourth inning against the Braves on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez retires the Braves' Justin Upton on a ground out during the fifth inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.

With the Pirates transitioning Pedro Alvarez across the infield due to his errant throwing, manager Clint Hurdle now has an unusual problem: he has a three-headed platoon at first base.

In particular, Hurdle has to decide how to divide playing time against right-handed pitching between two left-handed first basemen in Ike Davis and Pedro Alvarez. Davis started over Alvarez on Tuesday, after Alvarez went hitless in his debut at first base Monday.

Davis has been a better overall performer against right-handed pitching for both his career and this season. Davis has a career .818 on-base plus slugging mark vs. righties for his career, compared to Alvarez's .789 rate. Davis also has a .776 OPS against righties this season compared to Alvarez's .750 mark.

How will Hurdle decide playing time?

“I look at a bunch of different things: offensive indicators, average at the time, individual matchups,” Hurdle said. “Watch it play out. If you pay attention, you'll probably have a pretty good chance of figuring it out. Everyone needs to get some at-bats. We are not going to quit on anybody.”

Alvarez is unlikely to see much, if any, time at third base the rest of the way.

“I think this year we have got a better option in (Josh) Harrison right now,” Hurdle said.

The first-base situation presents Hurdle with one other significant challenge as carrying three first basemen reduces roster flexibility.

Mercer will play through pain

The Pirates returned two middle-of-the-field players to their lineup. In addition to center fielder Andrew McCutchen's return, shortstop Jordy Mercer also rejoined the lineup.

Unlike McCutchen, however, Mercer did not claim he was returning to the lineup with 100 percent health. Mercer had been held out of the lineup four straight games with a strained right forearm. He wore a sleeve on his right elbow Tuesday.

“I don't think it's going to be completely healed, I know that,” Mercer said. “I'm going to have to play through some kind of pain. As long as it doesn't get any worse, I'm good.”

Mercer, who is batting .304 in the second half, said the injury is strictly muscular in nature. He said he underwent an ultrasound that determined there was no ligament damage to his throwing elbow.

“We just looked at the ligaments and made sure everything is good,” Mercer said. “We decided we didn't need an MRI.”

Playoff tickets update

Some 20-game season ticket holders were upset to learn only full- and half-season ticket holders are guaranteed the right to purchase postseason tickets.

Pirates spokesman Brian Warecki said the club is confident all 20-game season ticket holders will be able to buy up to two postseason tickets for each postseason game during an exclusive online sale, provided they log in at their assigned times.

The Pirates said the postseason ticket inventory is tight due to an increase in season ticket purchases this season.

McCutchen ‘upset' at MLB

McCutchen was surprised MLB did not punish Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Randall Delgado, who hit McCutchen with a pitch Aug. 2, a day after Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt had his hand broken by an Ernesto Frieri pitch.

“I can't control what decisions (MLB) makes,” McCutchen said. “I just hope they see what happened. It wouldn't surprise me if, God forbid, something else like that happened again. So, in that sense, yes, I was a little upset.

“Sometimes, your body compensates for (injuries). So it might've had a little bit to do with (the rib injury).”

Staff writer Rob Biertempfel contributed. Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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