PITTSBURGH -- Early Friday afternoon, Clint Hurdle had one of the hardest conversations of his managerial career with a player: He had to ask 2013 National League All-Star third baseman Pedro Alvarez to buy into trying a new position that could free him from his throwing yips.
"I'm well aware of the fact I signed up for 'hard.' I always balance the importance of the one with the importance of the 24," Hurdle said. "That plays, with 50 games left in the season."
Alvarez's reception of and reaction to the suggestion was in evidence a half-hour later: He spent batting practice taking grounders and working on his footwork at first base -- the beginning of the process to reclaim his valuable bat without risking a rise in his 22 throwing errors.
"We had a long, engaging conversation [Friday] on his return [from three days on the bereavement list], and I encouraged him to listen to our thoughts on how best to return him to form on both sides of the ball," Hurdle said. "He gave it some thought, came back … and said he wants to do whatever he can to help this club win games."
"It's just another opportunity to help this team any way possible," Alvarez said Saturday prior to another cram session at first. "I think it shows the faith and the desire and the want that the organization has in me for me to help in any way possible. Moving over, taking ground balls at first … gives Hurdle and this team some options to be able to use me any way possible. I'm thankful for the opportunity."
While stressing that Alvarez would continue to also take grounders at third, Hurdle strongly implied that his visibility at that position would be limited.
"There could still be a game or a time in a game to fall his way," the manager said. "We have not closed the book at third. Right now, we feel it's better to go at it another way."
Josh Harrison, while still seeing occasional action at other positions, has assumed ownership of third base. In 33 games there, including 16 starts, Harrison had hit .386, with five homers and 15 RBIs and an OPS of 1.115.
A successful transition for Alvarez also has possible long-term ramifications. Neither of the first basemen now sharing the position, Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez, is signed for 2015, although both are still under club control (eligible for salary arbitration).
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.