R.J. Alvarez Eyes Opportunity In Miami
When righthander R.J. Alvarez got off to a bad start in 2017, he raised his hands from his waist to his face, hoping to eliminate excess movement.
Back at Triple-A Round Rock in the Rangers' system in 2018, he continued with that adjustment and set a career high with 24 saves. Alvarez also recorded a 3.68 ERA in 45 appearances, while striking out 44 in 44 innings, improving his control and allowing just two home runs.
In December, Alvarez signed a minor league deal with the Marlins, who invited him to spring training.
Coming home was a "huge factor” for Alvarez, who grew up in West Palm Beach, just six miles from the Marlins’ spring home at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. This will be the first time in his career Alvarez will have spring training in Florida instead of Arizona.
"There were quite a few teams that had interest in me,” said Alvarez, 27. "The Marlins seemed to have genuine interest, and they’re a rebuilding team. They should have some open spots in the bullpen.”
Alvarez, a fastball-oriented pitcher who sits 95-96 mph and also has a slider and split-changeup, converted from starter to reliever his junior year at Florida Atlantic. That year, in 2012, the Angels drafted him in the third round.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Alvarez made a quick rise through the minors and made his major league debut on Sept. 3, 2014 for the Padres. Traded again that offseason, he made 21 appearances for the Athletics in 2015 but recorded a 9.90 ERA.
"I was pressing so hard,” said Alvarez, who is of Cuban ancestry but is not fluent in Spanish.
In 2016, Alvarez had the first surgery of his career when bone chips were discovered in his right elbow.
This year, Alvarez will be playing for his sixth organization in six years, and there are reasons to believe this can be a breakthrough season.
"I’ve always had the stuff,” Alvarez said. "But since I made that mechanical adjustment, I have much more confidence in my ability to throw strikes early in counts.”
Alvarez said bullpen work suits him.
"I’m a low-key guy,” Alvarez said. "But when I get the ball, I get fired up.”