Lefty reliever Jose Alvarado came into the season with good reviews and grand expectations to return to form after a rough 2019 marred by injuries, family issues and inconsistent performance.
But Alvarado has gotten off to rough start and just before Saturday’s game against the Blue Jays, he was placed on the injured list with left shoulder inflammation after reporting his shoulder “was barking” a bit.
“He went out, played catch and came in to (head athletic trainer Joe Benge) and kind of complained of it not feeling right” manager Kevin Cash said by a Zoom video call from Buffalo, N.Y. “So we tried to do right by him and right by our roster, making sure we had enough coverage as possible.”
Right-hander Aaron Slegers took Alvarado’s spot on the roster. Slegers was called up Wednesday, optioned Thursday and recalled Saturday, all while being with the team as a member of the taxi squad.
Alvarado’s injury diagnosis came a day after his latest rough outing. Taking over in the eighth with the Rays down 8-4, he started with a walk, a hit batter and a single to load the bases, then threw a wild pitch that scored a run and, after a strikeout, gave up a three-run homer to Teoscar Hernandez.
Alvarado has made nine appearances around a three-day stint on the paternity list, having allowed at least one hit in his past six outings, and nine hits (including two homers), six walks and two hit batters overall, with 13 strikeouts. He has a 6.00 ERA and, of more concern, is averaging 21.6 pitches per inning.
He is the seventh Rays pitcher to be sidelined this season. They had some better news Saturday about two others: Yonny Chirinos (triceps inflammation) was cleared to start Sunday, and Charlie Morton (shoulder inflammation) felt good after throwing a 20-pitch bullpen session and appears on track to return next weekend.
Cash said he expects Chirinos to go three to five innings in what now will be a seven-inning game, which will start 30 minutes after Saturday’s suspended game is completed. Cash said that was not a hard limit for Chirinos’ first start since Aug. 2 if he is pitching efficiently.
Morton, who walked off the mound last Sunday, felt good after Saturday’s test, Cash said: “He was encouraged by it, a step in the right direction.”
Morton is scheduled to play catch Sunday and Monday in Port Charlotte, with plans to throw another bullpen session Tuesday. He is eligible to be activated for Thursday’s series finale in New York but is more likely to return during the weekend series at home with the Jays.
Cash said reliever Oliver Drake (biceps inflammation) remains shut down from throwing but should start playing catch within a few days.
That’s Brosseau, with a K
Mike Brosseau has been on the mound enough to know it’s usually not a good situation when a position player is asked to pitch, but he has learned to make the best of it. On Friday, that included ending the eighth by striking out Toronto’s Randal Grichik looking at a 64 mph curveball. “It’s obviously a cool feeling,” Brosseau said. “It’s another ball that you kind of put in the man cave later on in life. But, yeah, it’s a super strange feeling walking off the mound after a strikeout as a position player.” Brosseau’s feat, in his fourth big-league pitching appearance, earned him mention on Rob Friedman’s Twitter account, @PitchingNinja, that has a big following among players for its videos showing pitchers doing well and hitters not. “I’ve been on that actually a couple times, just on the wrong end, so it was good to see, I guess, to be on the other end of the spectrum,” he said. “I don’t know how serious it was, but it was still kind of cool, for sure.”
Cash knows Bo knows
Saturday was only Lakewood High product Bo Bichette’s 60th game in the majors, but it was his 12th against his hometown Rays since his late July 2019 callup. Cash has already seen enough to know how impactful the Jays’ 22-year-old shortstop is. “Really talented player,” Cash said. “We don’t like it when he’s coming up to the plate with guys on base. Looks like he got a lot of confidence when he’s got a bat in his hand. He’s got a really solid approach. He’s tough to pitch to. He can beat you to all fields with power, and he’s also shown the ability to shorten up (his swing) when he has two strikes or has that situation when he’s not trying to do too much. Very versatile at the plate. And looks like he’s going to be a really good player.”
Brandon Lowe extended his hitting streak to seven games with a third-inning single Saturday. … Though Yandy Diaz went into the game as one of the Rays’ top hitters and extended his 20-game on-base streak, 18 of his first 20 hits were singles. He thinks he knows why he hasn’t been elevating the ball more: “I feel like my bat is a little slow,” he said via team translator Manny Navarro. … Rays players and coaches on Sunday will wear a Negro Leagues 100th anniversary logo patch as part of a leaguewide celebration. … Catcher Kevan Smith and reliever Sean Gilmartin have rejoined workouts in Port Charlotte after being designated for assignment, clearing waivers and accepting outright assignments. … Cash had righties Manuel Margot and Brosseau in the lineup rather than lefties Joey Wendle and Yoshi Tsutsugo because Jays right-hander Chase Anderson was considered equally vulnerable to both righties and lefties. Also, to keep Margot and Brosseau active with three games against right-handers and then Monday off.