Long Road Traveled For Giants' Suarez
SAN FRANCISCO—Righthander Albert Suarez arrived in Giants camp this spring as a lightly heralded 26-year-old minor league free agent who hadn’t pitched above Double-A.
In just a few months, he claimed a meaningful role on a team that had baseball’s best record at the all-star break.
Suarez received an opportunity because he happened to be the most rested starting pitcher at Triple-A Sacramento when Matt Cain pulled a hamstring. With his ability to throw four pitches for strikes and attack hitters, Suarez not only performed well in six spot starts but has carved out a place for himself as a long reliever.
"Long relief” might also describe Suarez’s emotions at finally making it to the big leagues. The Venezuelan signed with the Rays as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2006 and spent eight years in their system, missing time for reasons both predictable and unpredictable.
Suarez lost a year while recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2009. He made just eight starts in 2011 because of chronic knee pain, and after a pair of surgeries, team doctors finally discovered an unusual cause. They performed a culture that confirmed Suarez had Lyme Disease, a bacterial disease transmitted through the bite of an infected tick.
If untreated, Lyme Disease symptoms can mimic rheumatoid arthritis.
"I don’t know how I got it, but that’s what they told me,” Suarez said. "I couldn’t believe it.”
Suarez finally put together a healthy and durable season in 2015 at Double-A Arkansas in the Angels system. His 2.98 ERA ranked No. 1 in the Texas League, but the Angels didn’t show much interest in re-signing him.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Suarez flashed a 95 mph fastball at Sacramento, and on June 18, he found himself starting a game at Tropicana Field—against the Rays.
"I never thought I’d be pitching against them, but baseball changes,” he said. "And I got a chance today, and it’s a good feeling.”
Notes From The Coast: Giants Search For Keepers Among Young Talent
The race is on for the Giants to indentify -- and add -- pieces to their next core.
• The Giants sold the contract of righthanded reliever Mike Broadway to Yokohama in the Japanese majors.