Hurdle talks Alvarez dilemma

Pirates' first baseman made 15th error in opener

Hurdle talks Alvarez dilemma

MILWAUKEE -- As always, there are a lot of uncertainties approaching MLB's annual July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But here is one definite: The Pirates are in the process of making the hard decision of whether they need an upgrade for the stretch drive at first base.

"Our general manager knows as well as I do what we look to identify as strengths and weaknesses on our club," manager Clint Hurdle said prior to Saturday night's game vs. the Brewers. "I don't know what will happen two weeks down the road. Could it be different? Yeah, it could be. Could it be the same? It could be.

"I'm not a fan of saying, 'We need A,B and C, when A,B and C is out there [in the clubhouse]. So I'm not gonna bang the drum for somebody when I've got a team full of players out there. We will do everything we can to fortify and make our club better."

This is an extremely sensitive issue, particularly for a manager who recognizes and appreciates Pedro Alvarez's work ethic and commitment, which started with him buying into changing positions from third to first.

Alvarez's 15th error of the season, letting a grounder go through his legs to set up a two-run seventh inning in Friday night's 4-1 loss, was another game changer. Regularly removed for defensive purposes late in even tied games, Alvarez's errors, most on routine plays, have come in 575 innings. The Reds' Joey Votto is second among National League first basemen with five errors, in 738 innings.

Overall, Pittsburgh first basemen have combined for 18 errors. The other 14 NL teams average four errors at the position.

Alvarez also stands out as the only lefty-hitting power threat in the Bucs' lineup, and took 12 homers and 41 RBIs into Saturday night's game.

Ironically, Hurdle brought up the name of a 1960s era Buccos first baseman known as Dr. Strangeglove for his fielding misadventures.

"Dick Stuart said, 'Long as you drive in more than you let in, you get to play.' I always liked that concept," Hurdle said. "Play determines playing time -- they all know that. We've become a team predicated on defense -- they all know that as well.

"Players know the game. There's no sense sending a message ahead of time. Wanting something and getting someone at that position are two different ends of the spectrum. So to bring it up and then not be able to deliver … I don't know what good that does, either. I'm a big fan of doing the best you can with what you got and where you are -- until that changes."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.