Future is now for Alvarez
By BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency
|Blue Jays pitcher Henderson Alvarez (left) and catcher Jose Molina have a mound discussion during a spring training game in February. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters file photo)
TORONTO - Luis Rivera was asked if Henderson Alvarez had pitched for him in 2010.
“I asked for him, they wouldn’t let me have him,” Rivera said. “He pitched one game for me in the spring and I said: ‘I’ll take that guy.’”
Alvarez began the 2010 season at class-A Dunedin, while Rivera was a step above, managing double-A New Hampshire in 2010. This season, Rivera joined the Jays coaching staff, the right-handed Venezuelan started at Dunedin, moved to New Hampshire, and now is scheduled to start Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics. Left-hander Wilfredo Ledezma was sent to Las Vegas to open a roster spot for Alvarez.
Alvarez and Rivera sat in the Jays dugout Tuesday night, Rivera translating as Alvarez, 21, answered questions.
“I don’t know a whole lot about Oakland, I know Coco Crisp and Hideki Matsui are tough hitters, it will be no small challenge,” Alvarez said.
And Oakland doesn’t know a whole lot about Alvarez, as the A’s don’t have an affiliate in the Eastern League.
At the Futures Game in Phoenix, a Major League Scouting Bureau report projected Alvarez to someday be at the front end of a major-league rotation.
His fastball has been clocked regularly at 90-95 m.p.h. and he has had triple digit readings ... and this is before the Rogers Centre gun bumps his velocity a couple of m.p.h.
The Jays thought enough of him to give him No. 37, Dave Stieb’s former number.
In 2010 in his first Futures Game appearance, he allowed a home run to Hank Conger.
“I went back this year and threw the same pitches,” said Alvarez, who threw a scoreless inning for the World team against Team USA.
Growing up, Alvarez’s favourite player was Felix Hernandez.
Alvarez made two starts at Dunedin to begin the season, then was promoted to double-A where he appeared in 15 games, making 14 starts.
“My goal this season was to make the majors,” Alvarez said. “I knew with this organization if I got to double-A I had a chance to get to get here.”
He’s 8-5 on the season with a 3.18 ERA, walking 18 and striking out 70 in 961/3 innings. Opponents were hitting .251 against Alvarez. In his previous five starts under pitching coach Pete Walker, he’s 4-0 with a 2.20 mark.
One recent Venezuelan’s debut, although without the same pedigree as Alvarez, was lefty Gustavo Chacin. He made his major-league debut at Yankee Stadium and pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on four hits and three walks in a 6-3 win in 2004.
Guillermo Quiroz, another Venezuelan, was behind the plate.
That was front page news in Caracas.