Alvarez works on defense

PITTSBURGH – Pedro Alvarez took a .235 average into Monday’s game, but that’s not the Pittsburgh Pirates’ biggest concern with him right now.

Alvarez was on the field early Monday to work on his throws from third base.

Alvarez has good hands and a strong arm. Sometimes it’s too strong. He’s had a tendency to sail some throws high and wide of first base.

It’s not a new issue. Alvarez led National League third basemen with 27 errors last season. He has 13 so far this year, which puts him on a pace for even more.

Preventing that was behind Monday’s early work. It’s an issue of footwork as well as over thinking what should be natural.

“I think it’s become a combination,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “How do slumps start? You hit some balls hard and you don’t get hits. You start thinking maybe if I twist this or tweak that, then suddenly you’re not hitting the ball hard.

“Now it’s why am I not hitting the ball hard? Instead of (the problem) being a physical adjustment, now you’ve turned it into a physical adjustment. Fielding can go hand in hand. The throwing errors? He’s aware of them and we are aware of them.

So what’s the fix?

“We’re trying to get him into a repetitive delivery, like a pitcher repeating his delivery,” Hurdle said.

Davis starts

Hurdle changed his mind and had Ike Davis at first base for Monday’s game against the Chicago Cubs.

He had initially said he planned to start Gaby Sanchez for a few days in place of Davis, who started June with 19 hitless at-bats.

He decided to load his lineup with lefthanders against Cubs started Edwin Jackson. Davis is 3-for-9 against Jackson with a home run.

“I went and looked at some more tape,” Hurdle said. “I just thought for the next two games, let’s leverage our best lineup against these guys.”

Hurdle offered this analysis of Davis’ slump:

“I would say 75 to 80 percent of the time here’s how it runs. Player is hot. He hits some balls hard and doesn’t get results. Now the number of pitches might shrink, firing a little bit earlier in the count.

“Now the balls are soft outs. Now the approach is gone, the balance is gone, the timing is gone. That’s how it’s been with Ike. That’s how it was with (Starling) Marte. That’s why we ask them to be stubborn in their approach and relentless in their pursuit to square balls up. You can’t control the outcome.”

Cole throws

Gerrit Cole, who went on the disabled list over the weekend with shoulder fatigue, did some light throwing on Monday.

It was the first time he’d picked up a baseball since last Wednesday, the day after his last start in San Diego.

“He threw 25 pitches from 60 feet,” Hurdle said.

According to Hurdle, Cole threw from flat ground rather than a mound.

Shake it off

After winning the first game of the weekend series against first-place Milwaukee, the Pirates lost two straight games.

They played poorly on Saturday, but were frustrated in Sunday’s 1-0 loss, which included some questionable umpire calls and fan interference.

Hurdle said he was exasperated enough to spend time in his pool, swimming laps. Andrew McCutchen said Sunday’s game was easier for forget for him.

“It’s the Brewers, they always seem to have a rabbit’s foot or a horseshoe, whatever it is,” McCutchen said. “They always seem to find a way to win, and yesterday was like that. That’s kind of the way the game goes sometimes.”

Walker scratched

Second baseman Neil Walker was a late lineup scratch because of abdominal pain. Josh Harrison replaced him.