Pedro Alvarez is becoming unplayable at third base

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Pedro Alvarez’s 24th error of the year didn’t cost the Pirates in Saturday’s 8-3 win over the Diamondbacks, but one wonders if it might have been the final straw. After the game, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Rob Biertempfel quoted Pirates GM Neal Huntington saying that all options are open right now and that “everything will be taken into consideration.” Biertempfel added that he’ll be very surprised if a roster move isn’t made in an effort to give more stability at third base.

Alvarez was never a particularly strong fielder anyway, but his throwing problems have never been this bad they’re the cause of him leading the majors in errors (no one else has more than 18). He’s also been a disappointment offensively, with a modest 15 homers and .402 slugging percentage this year, though his OBP is up to .322 at least (he had a .296 OBP while hitting 36 homers and driving in 100 runs last year).

The Pirates declined to move Alvarez to first base last winter, even though they had no luck trying to replace Justin Morneau in free agency or through a trade; they opened the season with Gaby Sanchez at first and later traded for Ike Davis. Having Alvarez replace Davis now is a possibility, but it wouldn’t necessarily make the team any better. Alvarez is currently hitting .247/.338/.434 with 37 RBI in 279 AB against righties, compared to .250/.365/.390 with 33 RBI in 236 AB for Davis. And Alvarez probably would be a downgrade defensively, at least initially. Neither should be playing against left-handers.

What is a given is that the Pirates are best off with Josh Harrison at third base right now. Harrison’s .330/.341/.498 line is almost certainly a fluke, but he’s so much better defensively than Alvarez that he doesn’t have to hit like that to remain an upgrade. The Pirates, though, like to use Harrison at other positions as well, so they may look to add another third base option rather than commit to Harrison there. They also have former White Sox prospect Brent Morel up, but he seems unlikely to stick after hitting a subpar .246/.318/.342 in Triple-A. He’s 3-for-16 so far in the majors.

UPDATE: The roster move has come, though it’s probably not quite what Pirates fans were looking for: Jayson Nix was signed to a one-year deal and Morel was sent back down to Triple-A. Nix had just been let go by Tampa Bay after hitting .274/.341/.411 in 190 at-bats for Triple-A Durham.

Marlins, Giants get into heated beanball war

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You may have heard that Giants closer Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door in frustration after Monday night’s subpar performance. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result. Strickland came in to protect a 4-2 lead but ended up giving up three runs. The tying run was knocked in by Lewis Brinson on a single to right field. Brinson moved to third base on a go-ahead single by Miguel Rojas, which prompted manager Bruce Bochy to take Strickland out of the game.

On his way to the dugout, Strickland started chirping at Brinson. Much like Bryce Harper and Strickland, Brinson and Strickland have a bit of a history. Last Thursday, Brinson handed Strickland a blown save with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Brinson was happy to help his team tie the game, pumping his fast and saying, “Let’s go” at no one in particular. That rubbed Strickland the wrong way. Everything seems to rub Strickland the wrong way.

During Tuesday night’s game, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez threw at Brinson with the first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher issued warnings to both benches. Manager Don Mattingly came out to argue, suggesting that his team hadn’t done anything wrong so it was unfair to essentially take the inside part of the plate away from his pitchers. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly could be seen saying, “You’re next” to catcher Buster Posey.

The Giants scored twice in the bottom of the second against Dan Straily to extend their lead to 3-0. Posey came to the plate with a runner on first base and one out. Straily hit Posey with a 91 MPH fastball on the first pitch, prompting ejections of both Straily and Mattingly. Posey was hit on the arm. If the pitch had come in a bit lower and hit Posey on the wrist or hand, Posey might have had to go on the disabled list for a couple months. Or if the pitch had hit Posey a couple of inches higher, in the head, then who knows what would have happened.

Things calmed down from there, thankfully. The two clubs have one more game against each other in San Francisco on Wednesday and that will be the final time they meet this season. If anything further is going to happen — and hopefully, nothing happens — then it will come tomorrow.

Straily will almost certainly be facing a suspension and a fine, as will Mattingly. It’s less clear if Rodriguez and/or Bochy will be reprimanded for throwing at Brinson, even though it was fairly obvious the pitch was intentional. Regardless, the punishments amount to just one missed start for the pitchers, which isn’t nearly enough of a detriment to deter beanball wars.