Pirates notebook: Throwing errors for Alvarez a work in progress

On bunts down the third-base line, Pedro Alvarez is there. Diving stops, double plays and other tough situations, he usually completes the out.

"This guy has probably played more an athletic third base this year defensively than any other year he's been here," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The challenge has been on the throwing side and it's been more or less on one particular play."

That one particular play occurs when he has time to throw, particularly after a grounder that takes him a couple of steps to his right. Alvarez had committed 21 errors this season, six more than the next-closest player in the majors entering Saturday. Many of them came on throws, most high, some low. Alvarez continues to work before batting practice on the throws.

"Just trying to put in the work every day, trying to get to where we want to be," he said after the game Friday night, when his throwing error led to a run.

Alvarez is known to put himself through numerous repetitions, whether in the batting cage or on the field, to the point where Hurdle has encouraged him to take a break from the extra work.

"It's just like anything, just trying to keep your mind fresh, trying to keep your body fresh," Alvarez said. "You can apply that to any part of the game, not just throwing. Fielding, hitting, whatever it is. Every once in a while it's good to just kick back and give it a break."

The Pirates review poor throws with Alvarez and note the way in which he sets his feet.

"Many times you'll see that foot's not even pointed in the direction that the throw needs to go, for whatever reason," Hurdle said. "You can point that out, and through drills and work, you can improve the consistency."

Recently, Hurdle has removed Alvarez for Josh Harrison as a defensive replacement late in close games. Hurdle noted that Alvarez had appeared in 94 of the Pirates' first 96 games in some capacity -- he has stuck with Alvarez -- but he also prioritized defense as a whole.

"The point we're at right now, we're putting our best defensive team on the field when we feel it's appropriate," Hurdle said. "By giving opportunities along the way, you are showing confidence to build into that."

Alvarez, who has the strongest arm in the infield, said he remains confident.

"I want the ball hit to me," he said. "I want to make every play."

Precautionary measure

Starling Marte did not start Saturday after taking a 93 mph fastball off the side of his helmet Friday night.

"I think we're still trying just to accumulate information, give him some time. It's less than 24 hours after the hit-by-pitch," Hurdle said before the game Saturday. "Precautionary measures are in place."

Marte stayed in the game to run the bases and took the field the following inning, but Travis Snider later replaced him in left field.

Nearly a no-no

Class AA Altoona right-hander Adrian Sampson took a no-hitter into the ninth inning Friday night against Bowie before Mike Yastrzemski, Carl's grandson, hit a one-out double.

Sampson, a fifth-round pick in 2012, has a 2.58 ERA in 20 starts.

Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.

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