Alvarez at 1b for rest of year

PITTSBURGH – Pedro Alvarez moved to first base, and Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he has no plans to move him back to third base this season.

Hurdle said that Alvarez is now part of a three-player crowd at first base, joining Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez.

Hurdle plans to have Josh Harrison as his regular third baseman for the remainder of the season.

Hurdle outlined the plan before Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves.

“I think this year we have a better option in Harrison,” Hurdle said.

So a former No. 1 draft pick who commanded a $6 million signing bonus and tied for the National League lead in home runs last season has essentially lost his job to Harrison, who had been seen strictly as a platoon player before this season.

Alvarez is not viable at third base for the Pirates because of the consistent problems he’s had making throws. His power production has also declined this year. It is mid-August, and Alvarez has yet to have one of the power streaks that have characterized his career to this point.

Hurdle did allow that circumstances could put Alvarez at third base. He was reminded that he had planned to move Alvarez to first base during the weekend series in Washington. That plan was scuttled when shortstop Jordy Mercer developed a forearm injury that required Harrison to play at short instead of third.

“My intention is to not close the door to (Alvarez at third) but to put the best team on the field every night that I can for us,” Hurdle said. “If that includes (Alvarez) at third, so be it. Right now, I think we have better options.”

How will Hurdle determine who plays at first? Alvarez and Davis are both lefthanded hitters. Sanchez is a righthanded batter.

“I look at a number of different things – offensive indicators, average at the time, match-ups, defense, the pitcher we’re playing,” Hurdle said. “All of that goes into it.

“There’s a certain method I have in mind. Watch it play out, and if you’re paying attention, you probably have a pretty good chance of figuring it out because it’s not complicated by any means.

“Everybody needs to get some at-bats because we’re not going to quit on anybody. Pedro has shown us a bat that can get white hot. It hasn’t this year. Are there opportunities for that to still happen? We believe there are, so we have to find him some at-bats. Has third base been the optimum place to get them? No, it has not been.

“Ike, what we haven’t seen, is Ike was hot a couple of times in New York two years ago. Over 30 home runs, and the second half of last season. Can he revisit that? That would help our club as well. He plays one position, and that happens to be first base.

“Gaby, through stretches, has shown the ability to handle lefthanded pitching better than the other two. That’s the recipe you have, and you try to make the best decisions you can with your eyes, your staff and the other indicators that I mentioned.”

Two return

As expected, Andrew McCutchen (rib injury) came off the disabled list and reclaimed his No. 3 spot in the batting order on Tuesday.

Mercer also returned to the lineup after missing four games with his forearm injury. He said it is not completely healed and played with a sleeve on his right arm.

“I’m going to have to play through some pain,” Mercer said. “As long as it doesn’t get worse, I’m good.”

McCutchen, meanwhile said he’s ready to go after sitting out two weeks. He batted against live pitching before Monday’s game and is wearing a protective top under his uniform jersey.

“I feel good,” McCutchen said. “I feel great. My legs feel fine, my arm feels great, my body feels great. My ribs feel great. I felt good two weeks ago, honestly, and we had to make that decision (to go on the disabled list).

“I hadn’t run really hard or taken balls in the outfield. The only thing I had done was run and swing. That was it. I took those extra eight days, and I feel great.”

Cole back

Gerrit Cole is scheduled to come off the disabled list tonight to start against the Braves for his first major league appearance since July and just his fourth since May 29.

The Pirates will probably sent Brandon Cumpton back to Class AAA Indianapolis to open a roster spot.