Alvarado's filthy stuff drawing attention

April 5th, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- Over the last year, has been the best reliever on the Tampa Bay staff, and probably one of the best relievers in all of baseball.

There's a good chance the casual fan doesn't know who Alvarado is due to the fact that the fiery left-hander recorded just eight saves for the Rays a year ago. But during Wednesday's loss against the Rockies, Alvarado made himself known by doing this against Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon.

That pitch from Alvarado was 99.6 mph and according to Statcast, the pitch had a movement of 14.1 inches horizontally. Within minutes, the pitch was all over social media and it circulated around the Rays clubhouse.

"Not fair," said Rays manager Kevin Cash after reliever Chaz Roe showed him the video clip. "That's tough."

Since Aug. 1, Alvarado has been one of the toughest at-bats in the Major Leagues. In that span, according to Statcast, Alvarado has the third-highest strikeout rate in the big leagues at 46 percent and of the 374 pitchers that have faced 75 hitters in that same span, Alvarado is tied for fourth in the Majors with a .201 xwOBA, which shows how much a pitcher is able to limit hard contact.

Because of his high usage last season with a career-high 70 appearances, the Rays opted to be careful with Alvarado during the spring. The Rays won't name Alvarado their closer, but he has already recorded two saves and will get a bulk of the opportunities in late-inning situations.

"His season was outstanding last year," Cash said. "[Pitching coach Kyle Snyder] was very concerned about his workload and the buildup during Spring Training. But he's shown in his last couple of outings since Opening Day that we probably made the right decision because we're probably going to want to go to him a lot and he looks really fresh."

Catcher Mike Zunino, who caught Alvarado's 99.6 mph pitch to Blackmon, said it didn't take long for him to realize how good Alvarado's stuff is. He had heard a lot of positive things about the left-hander, but as he caught him against the University of South Florida during Spring Training, he got a firsthand look at how much movement Alvarado had on his pitches.

"It was the first time I saw him in game action and obviously there's more adrenaline and that was the first time I knew that he had some really special stuff," Zunino said. "But it's not a one-time thing for him. I think the more games he plays, the more time he gets pitching late in ballgames against those types of guys, I think more people, more fans, the entire league will be aware of how nasty his stuff is."

Alvarado said he has received a lot of text messages from friends and some players around the league talking about the pitch to Blackmon. The velocity didn't surprise Alvarado, as his sinkers are averaging 98.6 mph through four appearances this season, which is up from the 97.3 average from a year ago, but the movement on the pitch continues to impress the left-hander.

"As long as that pitch keeps making that effect, I have to keep throwing it," Alvarado said, with a smile. "The movement that I've been able to get on that pitch is incredible, but I just have to keep working."