Marlins infielder Eddy Alvarez gets asked the question often -- how does speed skating compare to baseball?
“The only similarity I can come up with is, you go left,” Alvarez said on a Zoom call Thursday.
Alvarez’s story encompasses both sports. He has the rare distinction of being a former United States Olympic speed skater as well as being a Major Leaguer. A Miami native, Alvarez won a silver medal for the U.S. speed skating team at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Six years later, he's in the big leagues.
At age 30, Alvarez made his MLB debut on Wednesday, playing both games of Miami’s doubleheader sweep of Baltimore at Camden Yards. Alvarez said the feelings that he had when his name was introduced were similar to how he felt at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.
Alvarez is essentially living out two dreams.
“It’s OK to dream. It’s OK to let go and go after what you want,” Alvarez said. “I’m a true testament. I firmly believe I am no more athletic than the guy next to me. I’m 5-foot-9. I weigh 180 pounds. I don’t outlift anyone. I don’t outrun a whole lot of people. It’s OK.”
A member of the Marlins’ 60-man player pool, Alvarez’s first big league opportunity came after a wave of Miami players were placed on the injured list due to testing positive for COVID-19.
After getting informed he was heading to the big leagues, Alvarez decided to tell his parents in person, not via a phone call or text message. Mindful to stay socially distanced, the rookie infielder went to his parents’ house and shouted the news through the window.
“I knew immediately I had to share the news with my parents, who live not even a half-mile away from me,” Alvarez said. “My bright idea was to yell at them through the window.
“I surprised them at the house I grew up in. I yelled along the lines, something like, ‘We did it!’ My dad didn’t quite understand what it was, but my mother did. Now, we’re here, man. Very exciting.”
When Alvarez collects his first big league hit, he intends to place the baseball next to his Olympic medal.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly, a former MVP as a player, recognizes how difficult it is for any athlete to reach the highest levels in two sports.
“To obviously be able to compete at the level he did at the Olympics, and then to turn to another sport and do it,” Mattingly said. “It gets back into the ‘Bo Knows’ [era]. Eddy is just like a Bo Jackson-type athlete.”
Roster set at 28
The Marlins have done plenty of roster shuffling the past few days, and on Thursday, they trimmed two players from their active roster.
Left-handed relievers Brian Moran and Josh D. Smith were optioned to Miami’s alternate training site in Jupiter, Fla. However, both have been added to the team's taxi squad, so they will remain on the trip.
MLB rosters were reduced from 30 to 28 on Thursday and will remain at that total through the World Series. Additionally, the taxi squad increased from three players to five.
For the Marlins, having as many available players at their disposal is essential, especially because 18 players are on the COVID-19 injured list.
At the start of the season, MLB set rosters at 30 for the first two weeks, along with a three-man taxi squad. Initially, the plan was for the number to stay at 30 for the first two weeks, then reduce to 28, and then two weeks later, settle at 26.
The Marlins are currently carrying 15 pitchers and 13 position players.
“Obviously, in this format, with the DH, you need less [position] players,” Mattingly said. “Unless you have a couple of platoon spots, which we kind of do a little bit right now.”
The Marlins are carrying 10 relievers. But with the rule change that relievers must face at least three batters, unless they close out an inning, Mattingly notes there still are some challenges in managing bullpen usage.
“You still have the three-batter minimum, so you can’t run one pitcher after another,” Mattingly said. “You still have got to pick your spots with your guys. But it does protect you a little bit more, as far as your ‘pen guys.”
A challenging September got tougher for the Marlins. On Thursday, MLB released Miami’s revised schedule, and the club will play 27 games in 23 days in the final month of the regular season.
The changes were made to make up the games the Marlins missed during their eight-day hiatus as the club quarantined following numerous positive COVID-19 tests.
The Marlins and Phillies will play seven games in five days from Sept. 10-14, including doubleheaders on Sept. 11 and 13.