Alvarez putting in time to get better at 3rd base

PITTSBURGH – Pitchers aren’t the only players doing some extra pre-game throwing these days for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Third baseman Pedro Alvarez was on the field Saturday afternoon, working with coach Nick Leyva to correct his throwing problems.

Alvarez has been charged with 21 errors this season. All but one of them have come on throws.

He has developed a tendency to overthrow, sailing the ball well over the target at first base. The Pirates are working on his mechanics, especially on plays when he moves to his left and has time to make the throw.

His defense has been exemplary otherwise, but the throws are a major problem.

“Dives to the left, slow rollers, he’s probably played a more athletic third base this year than any other year,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “The challenge has been on the throwing side, and it’s been more or less on one particular play.”

Saturday wasn’t the first time Alvarez has put in early work to correct his throwing. In fact, Hurdle has had him back off on occasion, believing that too much attention could actually be detrimental. The same thing can happen to a slumping hitter who over thinks the situation instead of letting his talent take over.

Alvarez has a powerful arm, which is ordinarily an asset on the long throws from the other side of the field.

His struggles have become significant enough that Hurdle has taken to removing Alvarez late in games to put Josh Harrison at third base.

“We’re putting our best defensive team on the field when we think it’s appropriate,” Hurdle said. “Everybody here is communicated with. There’s nothing they have to try to figure out. They understand the reasons it’s been done. It’s up to them to deal with it.”

Or to improve enough to make the late changes unnecessary.

Marte sits

Starling Marte was out of Saturday’s lineup after taking a 93 mile per hour pitch off his batting helmet in Friday’s game.

“We’re still trying to accumulate information,” Hurdle said. “Precautionary measures are in place. We’ll run Harrison out to left field and see if Marte is available off the bench tonight.”

Unusual streak

The Pirates opened after the All-Star break facing lefthanded pitchers in four consecutive games.

That meant some extended playing time for first baseman Gaby Sanchez, who doesn’t get many starts because there aren’t that many lefthanded starters.

“This is the first time I can remember four lefties in a row,” he said.

Stop sign

Before Marte left Friday’s game, he made another base running mistake.

He tried to score on a ball he hit into the left-field corner even though Leyva, coaching at third base, was clearly telling him to stop at third. Marte ran through the sign and was out easily at the plate.

Hurdle said Marte didn’t disregard the stop sign. Rather, Hurdle said that Marte never noticed it.

“We have coaches on the line for those reasons,” Hurdle said. “If you look at the tape, I think there was a point rounding second where Starling just made up his mind that he was going to go.

“There was never a point where he saw Nick. That comes with baseball awareness, with experience. That’s one area where he has plenty of room to improve upon. There have been some situations on the bases where the awareness hasn’t been where you want it to be. We’re trying to help him through those things.”

Hurdle said it was an especially bad decision since Andrew McCutchen was the next hitter and Marte was already going to be in scoring position at second or third.

“That’s where you have to have the wherewithal to pick up the third base coach and obviously he’s making the call that you need to honor,” Hurdle said.