Alvarado fired a scoreless sixth inning in which he also recorded a strikeout during a Grapefruit League win over the Pirates on Friday. Alvarado has been sparsely utilized by manager Kevin Cash this spring, with Friday's outing only his second appearance of the exhibition slate. The 23-year-old southpaw has thrown just 13 total pitches but recorded three strikeouts, and he remains on track to see the bulk of save opportunities despite the Rays not officially designating him as a full-time closer.
The Rays will not designate a closer this season, but Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times thinks Alvarado will "get lots of save opportunities." Alvarado racked up eight saves for the Rays last season, finishing third on the team behind Sergio Romo and Alex Colome, and the skills are certainly closer worthy. He pumps the fastball in at 97 mph on average and gets plenty of swinging strikes. The southpaw was even more of a headache against right-handed hitters than he was against lefties, holding them to a .218 wOBA. It sounds like he will be primarily a ninth-inning arm, but Alvarado will be used earlier in the game when needed, creating some save chances for the likes of Diego Castillo, Chaz Roe, Emilio Pagan and perhaps others.
Alvarado is unlikely to be used as a traditional closer by the Rays in 2019, Juan Toribio of MLB.com reports. Manager Kevin Cash doesn't plan to officially name a closer this season, but Alvarado is a likely candidate to see ninth-inning opportunities depending on game flow and matchup. Given the Rays' utilization of the opener strategy, it comes as little surprise they plan to eschew traditional late-inning roles as well. Alvarado is expected to see minimal work this spring after a career-high 64 innings during 2018. Regardless of his official title, the 23-year-old lefty's 2.39 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 11.2 K/9 last season should still provide plenty of fantasy value as Tampa Bay's likeliest option for high-leverage work.
Manager Kevin Cash would not name Alvarado as the team's closer heading into spring training, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Cash said that he felt "no urgency" to name a closer. There's always a chance Cash will opt to have multiple players share the job based on scenarios. Alvarado seems the most likely candidate to grab hold of the primary role, as he converted eight saves while posting a 2.39 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 11.3 K/9 across 64.0 innings in 2018. The lefty would remain valuable even in a committee thanks to his impressive ratios.
Alvarado secured his eighth save of the season Wednesday against the Indians, striking out two across a perfect ninth inning. Alvarado needed just 11 pitches -- eight of which were strikes -- to retire the Indians to secure the win. He's converted both of his save chances in September, racking up six strikeouts across 2.2 scoreless innings over that stretch. Sergio Romo picked up a save in between Alvarado's two conversions as the two continue to share the ninth inning.