Pirates notebook: Pedro Alvarez learning new role

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Pedro Alvarez will make his debut at first base “a day here soon,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Monday, a clear indication the transition is approaching rapidly.

Alvarez fielded grounders at first base and scooped throws at the bag before a game Monday night against the Detroit Tigers at PNC Park.

“He’s working his backside off to find a level of comfort to go ahead and say ‘OK, I’m ready to go over there in a major league game.’ We’re getting closer to that. I think we’re real close to that,” Hurdle said. “He’s putting the work in. We’re appreciative of it. There’ll be a day here soon where you see him over there.”

Alvarez has not played a complete game for the Pirates since July 31, and has had just eight plate appearances since then. He has never played a professional game at any position other than third base.

Playing first is not as easy as it looks, said Ike Davis, but he suspects Alvarez will be fine with the transition.

“It is an easier position than third base, I guess, to some aspect,” Davis said. “Anyone can play first base. It’s just, to be good at it is a different story. … I think [Alvarez] is a good enough athlete, he’ll be fine at first base. I mean honestly, he’ll probably be really amazing at it. It takes a little time to get used to being around the bag, and your footwork, avoiding runners and different kind of things.”

Hurdle said he’s confident in the ability Alvarez has and the hard work he’s putting in, but the best time for evaluation will come when he finally gets a crack at the new position in a game.

“I’m comfortable in the fact that he’s athletic, he’s willing to work. I do believe there’s a point in time where you’ve got to find out where you are,” Hurdle said.

“You can do all the practice drills that you want. When you get into the game you also have the opportunity to identify maybe some other areas you’ve got to work or put a little attention on.”

Cole update

The next step for Gerrit Cole is still up in the air after his latest rehabilitation start with Class AAA Indianapolis.

Cole was in the clubhouse Monday but had not yet met with Hurdle, general manager Neal Huntington and pitching coach Ray Searage to determine a plan of action.

“His last outing was very, very good,” Hurdle said. “He was able to maintain delivery, maintain the slot, compete, make pitches, sharpness of pitches, command. All the things we wanted to show up, it showed up. The number of pitches — 74 — is something we’re going to need to talk about. But it was a real good step piggybacking off one that was more of a workout, gear down. This time he had the conviction and the competition.”

Cole threw those 74 pitches in six innings, but had no set limit going in, Hurdle said.

“It’s a good way as far as him being very efficient. We need to discuss on volume. …Whenever we give him the ball next, how many can we look to get from him?” Hurdle said. “Because it does make a difference.”

Walker still out

Neil Walker was not in the lineup again, but the team has yet to determine a move to the DL is necessary for him.

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

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