Pirates notebook: Alvarez spends time at first to find way back into lineup

When Pedro Alvarez returned from the bereavement list Friday, he and manager Clint Hurdle had a talk. Hurdle told Alvarez of the club's desire for Alvarez to work at first base and possibly create another avenue into the lineup.

"He gave it some thought, came back, and him and I had another long conversation," Hurdle said. "He wants to do whatever he can do to help this ballclub win games.

"That would be the start of it, and we look for it to get some legs."

Alvarez, who has never played anything other than third base in his professional career, began taking ground balls at first base during batting practice this weekend. Hurdle removed Alvarez from third base because he committed a major league-leading 24 errors, almost all of them the result of poor throws, and the problem showed no signs of dissipating.

"When the opportunity came up, it was a no-brainer," Alvarez said. "It just shows that they want me in there somehow. If that's how I can help right now, that's what I'm going to do."

Hurdle said third base remains a possibility for Alvarez in the future, and Alvarez said he sees himself as a third baseman long term. He will continue to practice his defense there as well.

"At third, just like anything else, like hitting, there's mechanics, there's adjustments that have to be made," Alvarez said. "Those are things we're working on."

Hurdle said he hoped the move provided Alvarez freedom from his defensive issues at third and at the plate. He was hitting .203 with two home runs and a .276 on-base percentage since July 1.

For the time being, Hurdle said he was not worried about creating a logjam at first by adding Alvarez to the mix with Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis, who like Alvarez hits left-handed.

Alvarez has worked with Sanchez and third-base coach Nick Leyva, who also coaches the infielders, on the new position. In addition to scooping throws out of the dirt, Alvarez must learn new bunt coverage, cutoff responsibilities, different throws and holding runners on first.

Alvarez said he could not pinpoint why the routine throws from third base presented so many problems.

"If I could, it wouldn't be an issue, I think," he said.

Timetable for Walker near

The Pirates are "getting close to a due date" with Neil Walker, Hurdle said, after Walker missed another game because of tightness in his lower back.

"He reported feeling well [Saturday]," Hurdle said. "I don't think there was a setback as far as any residual tightness after the workout [Friday]."

Walker was scheduled to go through a full pregame workout Saturday.

Vance Worley's seven-inning outing Friday took some pressure off the currently short-handed bullpen. Hurdle said the Pirates could carry only six relievers for another day while they waited for further clarification on the status of Walker and Andrew McCutchen.

The Pirates scratched right-hander Brandon Cumpton from his start Friday for Class AAA Indianapolis in case they needed another reliever at some point this weekend, Hurdle said. Cumpton is healthy.

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

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