Bucs face tough call on Alvarez/1B as TD nears

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 at first base for the stretch.

“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 here. “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 through his legs to set up a two-run seventh inning Friday night, was another game changer. Regularly removed for defensive purposes late in even tied games, Alvarez’s 15 errors, most of 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 National League 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 ‘60s 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.”


Hurdle is a smart manager and Alvarez remains a positive force in the lineup despite the strikeouts and errors. The difference between Pedro and Dick Stuart is that Alvarez wants to get better and probably will. Travis Ishikawa and Sean Rodriguez play good defense for late innings. I would worry more as a Pirates fan about shortstop, where many more chances to effect the game occur.

Hi Tom! Todd Lentz here, “Lentz 84” … It was great catching up with you again Friday night at Miller Park. I’m glad I made the trip… being swept by the Brewers, well, no so great, but that’s baseball. Three very good games, nonetheless. Looking forward to more and more of “Change for a Nickel”

Dear Pedro-
Dial 1-800-American League. When prompted, press DH. Then hang your glove in a nice frame over the fireplace.

PS- If it’s the Yankees that call back, please take a weed whacker to that ridiculous beard before the interview!

Bases loaded, and Polanco still approaches with his loose, home run swing. A tap wooda tied the game!
When on earth are we going to lose Jeff Branson?!
Please help us Dorothy, this isn’t Kansas anymore.,,,.

Alvarez, simply, has to go.
Polanco, simply, needs a hitting coach.

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