By Rich Mancuso
Dario Alvarez the Atlanta Braves left handed pitcher came out of the bullpen Saturday night at Citi Field. The 27-year old, from Santiago of the Dominican Republic was with the New York Mets in spring training and then the team needed to make a move on the roster in mid May.
It happens so much in baseball. There is always a player that is expendable, and when teams need pitching they always call on the Mets, a franchise known for the young and good pitching that propelled them during their rebuilding stages that was good enough to reach the World Series last season,
Alvarez was once a part of that Mets pitching plan. But the roster move was made and the Mets saw first hand what they no longer have. With one out in the seventh, and with the Braves hanging on to a slim lead, Alvarez was called to stop a potential threat and with a runner on first he struck out Kelly Johnson swinging and got Curtis Granderson to pop out to third.
“Just want to do the job when they call me and do it,” said Alvarez in the visitor’s clubhouse, after he got his first win by facing two batters and striking out one.
The Braves are rebuilding as they struggle as a last place team with the worst record in the National League. And, like his former team, the pitching is where the process starts. GM John Hart was able to get Alvarez who was available when the Mets put him on waivers and was claimed on May 25th,
Since then, it has been nothing but success coming out of the pen. Alvarez, with an average fastball that is getting better, can come in as a setup guy, get one or two out to stop a scoring threat, or close games.
In essence, Alvarez is a valuable tool and also can be called upon to be a spot starter and work a lot of innings. Earier this spring, Atlanta had another former Met out of the pen, Carlos Torres, who was that valuable tool, but he opted out of a minor league deal and was picked up by the Milwaukee Brewers.
So, the Braves have that tool now. He made his debut with the new team and last Wednesday tossed 2.0 scoreless innings and struck out five. His ERA in 2-⅔ innings with the Braves, two appearance out of the pen reads .000.
He said, through an interpreter about his first win of the season and against his former team, “Feel good about it. More so glad how the game played out. How the team played and get the win. Great for the opportunities.”
Last season, Alvarez was granted some time with the Mets. There were stints back and forth twice from Triple-A Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League and left handers were 3-for-10 off him. But those were spot appearances as he Mets were still figuring out their bullpen in their run to the postseason.
Signed as a minor league free agent by the Mets in 2013, Alvarez knew it would a test to stay in New York, He was well aware that the organization had that wealthy pitching and had to work hard to make the big club. This spring, he followed a plan but Hansel Robles, another fellow Dominican was step ahead with the fastball and Antonio Bastardo was acquired via free agency.
In other words, Alvarez got caught up in a numbers game and the business of baseball, that is, until the Braves made the call to give him a well deserved opportunity.
“I completely understand,” Said Alvarez regarding the Mets decision to put him on waivers. “It’s baseball. It’s a business. It’s one of those things that happen. To be honest, I’m just grateful the Mets gave me an opportunity back in the day. I completely understand the way, why it went the way it did.”
Though, Alvarez admits: “I wasn’t performing the way I thought I was capable of..At the time, they needed a position player. One of those things. They needed to make that move as in the big leagues you understand that happens.”
“Not bitter at all. Great for the opportunity they gave me. Glad it has come to this and where I am now.”
And if Alvarez stays healthy, Braves’ manager Brian Snitker will call on Alvarez often.
“He throws the ball hard, has good location and works hard to get better,” Snitker said. “Dario came into a tough situation and has adjusted well and that is not easy to do with his limited experience in the big leagues.”
On that adjustment, going from one situation to another in a short time span, Alvarez said he is putting extra time in with pitching coach Roger McDowell, the former New York Mets pitcher.
“Extra time with the pitching coach and working on the slider,” he said. Besides the fastball, that pitch is quickly becoming that good tool to get one or two batters out when called out of the pen to get the Braves out of a jam.
Said Alvarez: “Luckily it is going well and that’s all you can ask for.”
And that adjustment comes with a team that is rebuilding and going with a young pitching staff, though at his age, Alvarez knows he is getting up there with many years still ahead.
A prominent scout with the Braves organization admires the attitude and how Alvarez quickly made the adjustment to a new team. He said. “You can see how he has worked on some things that are working from the limited time he had in New York.”
That stands well for the Braves, and overall for a tram that is expected to contend again in a few years with the youngsters surrounding the rotation and out of their pen.
“It happens in baseball,” Alvarez said. “We are trying to go out there, work 1,000 percent and getting better everyday.”