PORT CHARLOTTE — Jose Alvarado has reason to feel good about putting his lost 2019 season behind him and regaining his stature as one of the Rays’ best relievers.
That’s because Alvarado said he not only is fully over the elbow issue that ended his disappointing season in August, but he has the added comfort of having his parents now living with him after being able to get visas, with the team’s help, to come to the United States from their native Venezuela.
“I’m very happy because I have my mom here and my father here," Alvarado said Monday before a pre-spring training workout. “I’m very excited."
Alvarado’s mother, Crelia, has had health issues for the past several years, which not only took some of his focus away from pitching, evidenced by his seemingly not coincidental struggles after a strong 2019 start, but led to him leaving the team for a month to go back to Venezuela to attend to her.
He returned looking a bit out of shape and in his fourth outing strained an oblique that sidelined him for five more weeks. He came back, pitched five times and was done for the season.
“My mentality this year in 2020 is to focus on working hard, because that situation last year, that was not easy," he said. “This year is a new year. I’m going to spend a lot of time working. I don’t want the same situation as last year. I’m feeling great. I’m feeling strong. I’ll be ready."
Pitching coach Kyle Snyder said Alvarado will benefit greatly from having his parents close, as they traveled together last week from Venezuela to Colombia to Florida. Alvarado said last year that his family in Venezuela, where there have been political and economic issues, had no money and “in the house everybody depends on me.”
“One hundred percent without question," Snyder said. “I know that’s been kind of thing that’s bothered him outside of baseball more than anything else has been the health of his mother. I do think having his family here as a supporting cast, and nothing more than that, will be very good for Jose."
When right, Alvarado, 24, can be one of the game’s most dominant lefty relievers.
Alvarado said he had “no doubt” he can regain the form he showed previously, including the first six weeks last year when he allowed only two runs and eight hits in his first 18 games, striking out 26 (and walking eight) in 17 1/3 innings.
Snyder said he likes what he has heard from Alvarado during the offseason — and what he saw Monday as he played catch at the spring complex — and is confident (“100 percent”) of a bounce back.
Knowing that will be both physical and mental, Snyder started motivating Alvarado early. When the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman won the American League top reliever award in October, Snyder texted Alvarado to tell him “there’s no reason in the world he couldn’t be that guy."
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His response: “He texted back an emoji of himself with a big smile."
Alvarado may be doing a lot of that these days.