Through his struggles on defense and league lead in errors, Pedro Alvarez continues to battle something that has haunted him all season long for the Pittsburgh Pirates. No one knows exactly what is wrong with Alvarez, but everyone still holds their breath when he fields a groundball at third base, hoping that the 2013 NL Silver Slugger doesn’t airmail the ball five rows deep into the stands on the throw to first base. This has been a huge issue for Alvarez all season yet it seems like it is all in his head. He hasn’t appeared to have any sort of lingering injury or any cause for concern for an injury. He just has not had his head in the game defensively. His bat, however, is still there and the Pirates could use it.
Don’t let Monday night fool you into thinking the Pirates are fine without Andrew McCutchen on offense, because they’re not. Sure they collected 11 runs off of the Tigers en route to an 11-6 win Monday at PNC Park at the expense of Justin Verlander, but Verlander hasn’t been the same pitcher we’ve come to expect to see. He has had good numbers against the National League but overall he still has had a fairly poor season for his standards. The Pirates have struggled to get production consistently from the platoon of Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis at first base. Pedro Alvarez will soon solve that problem.
All season manager Clint Hurdle denied a possible move to first base for Alvarez, as well as Alvarez himself. But things are starting to change with the Pirates. Hurdle said on Monday that “He’s (Alvarez) working his backside off to find a level of comfort to go ahead and say ‘OK, I’m ready to go over there in a major league game.’ We’re getting close to that. I think we’re real close to that.”
I’ve said over the years that moving Alvarez to first base is a good move, way before the throwing errors even started happening this season. Yet I still feel as if he’d still be playing everyday at the hot corner still if it were not for his throwing issues. But the Pirates are in the thick of a pennant race. They were once nine games behind the first-place Brewers who have been alone or tied for first every single day since April 5th. The Pirates are right there and doing nothing at the non-waiver trade deadline is starting to prove a minor impact on this club with the McCutchen injury but GM Neil Huntington didn’t know that would happen. What Pirates’ management does know is they have a good hitter in Alvarez and the upside of his bat at first base adds more of a threat to opposing pitchers.