Rays closer Jose Alvarado was placed on the 10-day IL on July 7 with a right oblique strain. 28 days later, Alvarado was sent to High-A Charlotte to begin a rehab assignment with the Stone Crabs. After throwing only one pitch and recording an out with Charlotte, Alvarado’s rehab assignment moved up to Triple-A Durham.
Let’s take a look at his stints in Durham and highlight the outs he recorded.
August 6 - Syracuse Mets
Alvarado started his first batter out with a two strike count, but a few missed spots loaded the count full before Alvarado struck out the batter swinging with a perfectly located fastball.
The second batter Alvarado faced watched strike one go by, swung at strike two, but once again Alvarado allowed the count to get full and this time walked the batter, though one of the pitches was a very well thrown curveball that didn’t get a bite.
Alvarado fared the toughest against the third batter he faced, walking him on four pitches while not locating a single pitch, even spiking a fastball into the ground. This was a scene becoming all too familiar among Rays fans prior to the oblique injury.
In contrast to some of his problematic major-league outings, Alvarado bounced back and did not let these walks affect him. A missed strike one call put Alvarado behind 1-0 to the fourth batter, a swinging strike after a called strike put Alvarado ahead 1-2, but a well-located fastball was just too low for ball two. A flyout ended this plate appearance.
The fifth and final batter Alvarado faced fouled off two pitches and took a ball to give him a 1-2 count before he flew out to center field to end the inning.
Alvarado had very little command of his fastball in his first outing with the Durham Bulls, and although this was his first real outing back from his injury, there was cause for concern if an outing like were to happen happened again.
August 7 - Syracuse Mets
Alvarado entered this game with the tying run on third base and two outs. A 94 mph fastball located well enough to induce the inning-ending ground ball was the only pitch Alvarado would throw in this outing.
Clearly this appearance was more about the warm up than the outing!
August 9 - Indianapolis Indians
Alvarado started this outing missing his spot on each of his first four pitches, but thankfully one was called a strike to keep him in the at bat. The next two pitches, Alvarado hit his spots perfectly, but both were fouled off, loading the count full. The plate appearance ended on a perfectly dotted strike three called on a 96 mph fastball, the only type of pitch Alvarado threw in this first at bat.
The second batter found himself down 0-2 after Alvarado hit his spot on a fastball to start the at bat and perfectly placed a curveball that was just fouled off for strike two. Unfortunately, two straight misses put two balls on the board, but a third miss was swung at for strike three.
Alvarado threw nothing but well-located curveballs against the third batter he faced, and with a 1-2 count, a ball was hit back to Alvarado and off of his back. Alvarado’s throw to first base was just off the line, putting the runner on first with a generous infield single, with no injury occurring on the play.
The fourth batter hit a ground ball to the shortstop on 94 mph fastball to end the inning with a fielder’s choice, although the camera never showed where the original spot was wanted.
Alvarado stayed in to face the first batter in the top of the ninth, locating his first two pitches very well to put the batter down 0-2. Alvarado missed his spot by a little on an 0-2 84 mph curveball that would have been ball one outside, but the batter returned it for a home run that just squeaked over the right field wall.
Alvarado was mostly good in this outing, pitching like the one we’ve come to expect before things unraveled earlier this season: A couple of missed spots here and there, but none more than the ordinary with the results to back it up. The argument can be made about how lucky the batter got on the home run on a pitch that was outside of the zone, but overall, Alvarado was good.
August 11 - Indianapolis Indians
Alvarado threw only three pitches in his outing on Captain America Night. A first pitch fastball was nowhere close to where catcher Michael Perez wanted it, but that would be Alvarado’s only miss, as the second pitch hit its spot but was fouled off. The third and final pitch of the plate appearance hit its spot and was grounded to first, ending the inning.
Alvarado’s rehab assignment with the Durham Bulls is coming to a close, and besides a rough first outing with practically no command of his pitches, the next three outings showed that Alvarado is ready to return to the Major League roster and add a flame-throwing weapon to Tampa Bay’s already strong bullpen.
UPDATED: Alvarado has been activated and will rejoin the team in San Diego. Austin Pruitt has been optioned.
All video courtesy of MiLB.tv