Alvarado is one of several Rays players with plenty to prove in 2020, Josh Tolentino of The Athletic reports. The hard-throwing left-hander had a largely forgettable 2019 campaign that included a multi-week absence to tend to his ailing mother in Venezuela. The bulk of Alvarado's struggles came during the latter part of the season, as he posted a 9.95 ERA over his last 17 appearances. Alvarado did enter spring with a much clearer mind because he was able to move his parents to the United States during the offseason, and he certainly has the tools for a resurgence in the form of a 98 mph fastball, along with a cutter, sinker and curveball. However, it's worth noting the 25-year-old also endured a rocky Grapefruit League stint before play was paused, as he posted an 8.31 ERA and walked four batters over 4.1 innings across five appearances. He projects to primarily return to a setup role in an abbreviated 2020 season.
Alvarado is expected to work primarily as a setup man to begin the 2020 season with Nick Anderson "in line to get the bulk of the save opportunities" for the Rays, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Manager Kevin Cash hasn't formally named a closer nor outlined roles for the rest of the members of the bullpen, so the above quote is mostly informed speculation on Topkin's part. That said, Anderson was the Rays' most dominant reliever over the final two months last season and has enjoyed a solid spring, which likely keeps him ahead of Alvarado and Diego Castillo in the pecking order for saves. Alvarado could still see occasional use in save situations -- particularly against lefty-heavy lineups -- early on, but the Rays' main priority is likely just ensuring he stays healthy and re-emerges as a reliable late-inning arm coming off a rocky 2019 campaign. Alvarado went 4-for-4 in save chances and struck out 26 in his first 17.1 innings last season before melting down thereafter, finishing with a 4.80 ERA and 1.87 WHIP across 35 appearances while missing time due to oblique and elbow injuries in addition to a personal matter.
Alvarado fired a scoreless sixth inning during which he struck out the side and hit a batter in a Grapefruit League loss to the Braves on Saturday. The reliever had endured a rough landing in his spring debut Wednesday against the Twins, retiring just one batter. That made Saturday's dominant outing, one of the few bright spots in a 12-0 loss for the Rays, a particularly welcome sight. Alvarado threw 18 pitches overall, with 11 finding the strike zone, and Juan Toribio of MLB.com reports the left-hander featured his cutter, sinker and curveball during his one frame. Alvarado's control was appreciably better against Atlanta as well, an important area of focus for him after he posted an 8.1 BB/9 across 35 appearances in 2019.
Alvarado made his first Grapefruit League appearance in Wednesday's loss to the Twins, allowing two earned runs on two hits and two walks over one-third of an inning. He struck out one. Per Juan Toribio of MLB.com, Alvarado, who followed starter Blake Snell, threw 27 pitches, with only 12 of those getting into the strike zone. However, considering the outing served as Alvarado's first taste of game action since Aug. 24, the left-hander took the struggles in stride. "I got close to almost six months without seeing a hitter and not pitching in a game," Alvarado said. "I'm feeling great because I'm feeling the power in my arm. A little bit too quick and too early over my right arm, but everything is good. I'm feeling good."
Alvarado, who threw another successful bullpen session Sunday, is likely to make his spring debut Wednesday against the Twins, Juan Toribio of MLB.com reports. The 24-year-old southpaw threw approximately 20 pitches during the session and looked impressive doing so. Alvarado has been sharp in his throwing thus far this spring, leaving him poised for his likely debut versus Minnesota.
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