WASHINGTON -- The way things were shaping up for the Pirates, one could have safely bet against the likelihood of Pedro Alvarez and Ike Davis again starting at opposite corners of the infield under normal circumstances.
Current circumstances being anything but normal for the injury-slammed Bucs, Alvarez's first start in 13 days in the field on Friday indeed came at his old position, across first baseman Davis. This wasn't the plan -- Alvarez was to roll out his first-base training wheels during this weekend series against the Nationals.
The plan changed when Jordy Mercer departed Thursday's game in Detroit with right forearm tightness that is still awaiting a medical diagnosis. Mercer was to visit with Washington's team doctor Friday night, with an MRI a possibility.
Josh Harrison had to shift over to shortstop, and a need arose for Alvarez at third.
"We need to be open minded," said manager Clint Hurdle. "With Mercer down -- he played a role in the offense as well -- I had to recalibrate with Ike and Pete. [Otherwise chances were] very good you would've seen Pedro at first base this weekend."
While getting a crash course in playing first base during his time out, Alvarez has continued to also take pregame grounders at third. If overthinking the position had been at the root of Alvarez's throwing issues -- 22 of his 24 errors have come on throws wide of first base -- Hurdle had to be intrigued by how he would react to this unexpected return to the position.
"Roll up your sleeves, get involved … he's got that opportunity tonight," the manager said.
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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.