Second Chance?

It wasn’t that long ago that Abe Alvarez was on the fastest of fast tracks.

Just 13 months after the Red Sox drafted him in the second round in 2003 out of Long Beach State, Alvarez was pitching for Boston, making an emergency start. The lefthander allowed five runs and eight hits while walking five in five innings in an 8-3 loss to the Orioles, but at the time, it was thought to be only a minor setback in what had been a rapid rise.

“I knew I was going to get sent down after the start, but I thought I would be back there for awhile,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez was rewarded with a World Series ring by the Red Sox; however, that start was his first and last in the majors. He pitched just three more games for Boston over the course of the 2005 and 2006 seasons, all out of the bullpen.

Pitching with a below-average fastball, Alvarez relied on his offspeed stuff to get batters out, it didn’t work in the big leagues. In 101⁄3 innings with the Red Sox he posted an 11.32 ERA and a 2.51 WHIP, the latter a number unacceptable for a control pitcher like Alvarez.

The 2003 second-team All-American was released by the Red Sox on Mother’s Day this season after pitching just 15 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket. Alvarez is attempting to resurrect his career pitching with the Long Island Ducks (Atlantic League) rotation. With his fastball topping out at 87, according to Ducks manager Dave LaPoint, Alvarez has managed to get his WHIP to 1.56 and his ERA is a respectable 3.75. However, Atlantic Leaguers are batting .290 against him.

LaPoint, who has a history of returning pitchers to affiliated ball, has been impressed with his stuff, and his durability. Except for a non-baseball related ankle injury, the 25-year-old Alvarez has been injury-free. And he made at least 20 starts every season until the Red Sox moved him into the pen in 2007, so durability hasn’t been a problem.

“I wasn’t really told a reason why the Red Sox let me go,” admitted Alvarez. “I came up so quick. I just got lost in the shuffle. I had an idea it was coming because I was the only guy in the bullpen not to be in the big league camp this spring.”

Indeed, Justin Masterson, Jon Lester and Charlie Zink, past teammates with Alvarez at Pawtucket, have gotten chances with Boston, with Lester establishing himself as a future ace and Masterson as at least an integral member of the bullpen.

“I’m still in touch with those guys,” Alvarez said. “Hopefully, I finish the year strong and receive a call from a team for spring training.”

Alvarez’s fringy stuff will make it tougher to emulate some of his former PawSox teammates, but as a lefty with a feel for pitching, LaPoint is confident his new pupil can make it back to the big leagues.

“The entire time he’s been here, he’s had only two bad games for us,” LaPoint said. “Early on my job was to get his arm speed up. Once that was up, he started to respond. He’s got a tremendous curveball with a tight spin.

“I don’t know why the Red Sox released him. I like to get my own read, but I don’t see a reason why he can’t help a team out. He’s still young and he can start or relieve.”


Everett Merrill is a freelance writer based in North Plainfield, New Jersey


INDEPENDENTS’ DAY

• Gateway first baseman Mike Breyman beat the race against the calendar. With a week to go in his Frontier League career, Breyman lined a home run, then added a single for his 450th hit, breaking Fran Riordan’s league record. Breyman is 27, which means he’s up against the league’s age limit and will be ineligible to play next year. He told a local paper that he hopes to get into coaching when his career is over. This isn’t Breyman’s first brush with the record book. He set a high school record for the highest batting average in a season when he hit .810 (47-for-58) as a senior at Seneca East High in Attica, Ohio.

• As long as the Pacific Coast League keeps on moving, the Golden Baseball League will be happy to follow. The Tucson Sidewinders will move to Reno before the 2009 season, which means that the GBL will come to town for the 2009 season. The new Tucson Toros will be owned by former Sidewinders owner Jay Zucker. The GBL also has franchises in Edmonton and Calgary, both of which has lost PCL teams in recent years

• The Amarillo Dillas beat the Alexandria Aces 7-4 in deciding Game Three to win the United League championship. The Dillas had swept Edinburg in the best-of-three semifinals round. League MVP Danny Bravo hit .600 during the championship series, capping off a season where he had hit a league-leading .372 with 21 home runs and 90 RBIs.

• The Bay Area Toros won the Continental Baseball League title, sweeping its best-of-three championship series against the Texarkana Gunslingers. In the opener, Brian Barr and Jayson Rachuig matched each other for nine innings as each allowed one run. But Ben Burum drove in Donald Brown with a sac fly in the 12th for a 2-1 Bay Area win. The Toros had an easier time in the clincher, as righthander Kevin Cooper shut down Texarkana for a 9-3 win. The Toros won 17 of their last 19 regular season games before the championship sweep.

Minors | #2008 #Independent Audit

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