SAN FRANCISCO -- The subject has become an uncomfortable one for Clint Hurdle. Whenever he is again asked about Pedro Alvarez's throwing issues, the Pirates manager answers listlessly -- as if he didn't really have an answer.
How could he? To try to explain how Alvarez has become a frequent threat to fans sitting behind first base, he'd have to get into the third baseman's head. Which, by the way, Hurdle has tried.
The only thing the manager has been able to do, however, is continue to express admiration for Alvarez's work ethic and to support him -- and to remove him for defensive purposes late in games the Bucs lead.
Alvarez has 23 errors -- nearly twice as many as any other third baseman in the National League (Arizona's Martin Prado has 12) -- and 21 of them have come on throws. Routine throws -- since he has retained the uncanny ability to finish off tough plays with strong, accurate throws.
"We continue to see great instincts, reflexes [but] every once in a while, there's a play where he decelerates, and it kind of throws off the rhythm and quite possibly the throwing slot," Hurdle said. "What we continue to try to get him to do is to keep moving. To keep that steady flow of energy, without any 'switches,' on and off."
When he tied for the NL lead with 36 homers last season, Alvarez was in the conversation with the prime Ryan Howard, his development being compared to the strikeout-prone but dangerous Philadelphia first baseman.
Now, he is on the verge of being compared to Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblauch, a pair of infielders who developed a harrowing inability to throw to first base.
Alvarez hit his most recent home run July 11, his 15th. Since that blow, he has committed five errors.