Álvarez gets taste of big spots in MLB debut

October 1st, 2022

NEW YORK -- Francisco Álvarez thought his 2022 season was over following Triple-A Syracuse's season finale on Wednesday.

The top prospect in baseball posted on Instagram that same night that he was already counting down the days until he returned to the field.

Turns out, that countdown was far shorter than he anticipated.

While making the drive from Syracuse to Miami on Thursday, Álvarez received a call from Mets director of player development Kevin Howard instructing him to take a detour to Atlanta to potentially be a member of the Mets’ taxi squad. Not long after that, manager Buck Showalter called with even better news: Álvarez was being promoted to the Majors.

Álvarez, who was making the trek with his parents and a friend, immediately pulled the car over to take it all in before rushing to join the Mets ahead of this weekend’s pivotal series against the Braves in Atlanta.

"I was excited," Álvarez said via team interpreter Alan Suriel. "We stopped the car, I gave a hug to my mom and dad, they were there. We also had a friend there; they started crying. It was emotional, but we were definitely excited."

The Mets wasted no time throwing Álvarez into the mix in Friday’s series opener at Truist Park -- and the big moments wasted no time finding the rookie.

His first career plate appearance came with two on and nobody out in the second inning of a scoreless game. His final at-bat in the Mets’ 5-2 loss came with the bases loaded and one out with the Mets trailing by three in the ninth inning.

Unfortunately for Álvarez, he rolled into a double play in that first opportunity and struck out swinging as the potential go-ahead run to end his night.

“I was excited because I was able to make my debut,” Álvarez said, “but also disappointed that we weren't able to win that game.”

Though Álvarez is still searching for his first big league hit, he flashed some encouraging signs in his other two trips to the plate on Friday night. In the fifth, he fell behind 0-2 against Braves starter Max Fried, but managed to work the count full before grounding out on the seventh pitch of the at-bat.

Then, in the seventh, Álvarez turned around a 97.3 mph sinker from Raisel Iglesias to send a rope into straightaway center field. The ball left Álvarez's bat at 100.3 mph and traveled a projected 376 feet, but Braves center fielder Michael Harris II tracked it down in the deepest part of the park.

"He came close. He was right on some balls,” Showalter said. “He'll learn from it. He's an impressive young man and I'm glad he's on our side.”

The results may not have been there for Álvarez in his first taste of the big leagues, but that didn’t stop him from soaking in the moment. Along with Álvarez having his parents and three of his friends in attendance, he received some advice from Francisco Lindor shortly before first pitch.

“Before the game, Lindor just pulled me aside,” Álvarez said. “And he just told me, 'Hey, remember this moment, just remember and appreciate this moment. This is what you've been working for, and nobody can ever say you're not a big leaguer. You've played a big league game and it's forever going to be there.'"

While Álvarez certainly figures to have plenty more big league games in his future, the question is how many more does he have this season? Though the Mets have only five games remaining in the regular season, general manager Billy Eppler left open the possibility that Álvarez could crack the postseason roster.

"Anybody that plays is making a case for themselves," Eppler said when asked if this next week is essentially an audition for Álvarez.

It’s not much time. Does Álvarez believe he can show the Mets enough in such a limited sample to earn some playoff reps?

"Yeah,” he said. “I think so."