Pirates notebook: Alvarez throws Pirates for a loop

SAN FRANCISCO — Pedro Alvarez made his major league-leading 21st throwing error — 23rd overall — Sunday in Denver, and it led to two unearned runs.

As the Pirates try to reduce those errors, they have explored everything from mechanical issues to the mental component to find the root of the problem.

“Yeah, as with any kind of complication, whether it be a pitcher [or fielder], there’s conversations. There’s a communication,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “There’s a buy in. And outside of that, we get to the point in time where the player takes ownership. He shares what he’s feeling, what he’s thinking. We go on in the process of trying to help him with that.”

The infield work is important though, Hurdle said, as is simulating situations he has struggled with in order to create muscle memory.

“The repetition is important. It’s not just putting time in. It’s putting focused time in, and that can be the challenged part of it,” Hurdle said. “Pedro has been focused, continues to work to do the things that you’ve got to do to work your way through it. Outside of that, we just keep focused on hunting good stuff and trying to help him find more consistency.”

The opinions on where he has been going wrong abound.

“The one interesting thing about all of this is all the different opinions that are coming out now,” Hurdle said. “People are paying obviously more attention. Everybody’s got a thought. What we continue to try and get him [to do] is to keep moving. Sometimes that can come with positioning.

“If you play deeper, you got a chance to be more active. [Because] we continue to see great instincts, reflexes on a number of different plays.”

The Pirates have identified when the errors occur, which generally is on plays that slow him down.

“It has been every once in a while the play where he decelerates that kind of throws the rhythm, and the tempo or the pace and quite possibly the throwing slot off,” Hurdle said. “We continue to work on encouraging to maintain the rhythm, maintain the pace.”

And they have tried to lessen the noise.

“We have a filter and a funnel. What goes on when he leaves here, we’re not aware of. Everybody’s got a posse, people that care about him,” Hurdle said. “We don’t want mixed messages. We don’t need a ton of voices.”

Mercer bats second again

Hurdle batted Jordy Mercer in the No. 2 spot again against left-hander Madison Bumgarner Monday night in the series opener against the Giants in San Francisco.

Mercer has hit .304 against left-handers this season with 12 RBIs.

“I think he gives us, against left-handed pitching, probably the best dynamic in that spot right now,” Hurdle said. “From last season into this season, he’s been one of our better hitters against left-handed pitching. He’s a guy we’ve used to play some small ball with, a guy who’s shown an ability to barrel the ball. He’s leading the team in RBIs against left-handed pitching in probably less at-bats than the other guys had.”

Good weekend for catchers

One bright spot from the 1-2 series against the Colorado Rockies was production at the plate from catchers Russell Martin and Chris Stewart, who combined to reach base 10 of 12 times.

“The entire weekend they had a lot of work to do behind the plate,” Hurdle said. “[Stewart] had that throw to third base, the at-bats, four times on base. Russ had great looks at the plate, all series long taking what they were giving him which was a handful of walks and a couple base hits. A series where there wasn’t a lot of highlights, but those guys were two of the brighter spots that we had.”

Cole update

Gerrit Cole went five scoreless innings Monday night for Class AAA Indianapolis in a rehabilitation start, giving up five hits and three walks. He struck out seven and threw 81 pitches, 50 for strikes. He is scheduled to make one more start with Indianapolis and tasked with getting to 100 pitches.

Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.

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