Álvarez is rehabbing his right elbow following ligament-reconstructive surgery in April. Don’t forget about him. The Orioles remain committed to seeing this experiment through.
“He’s doing great,” said director of player development Brian Graham. “He’s coming back to spring training. And by the end of spring training, he’ll be close to being able to go out and pitch somewhere.”
Álvarez remains shut down from throwing, but he’s performing conditioning drills and exercises that will enable him to get back on the mound.
“I’m really excited about the possibility,” Graham said.
The Orioles convinced Álvarez in spring training that he should abandon playing the outfield and he’d have an easier path to the majors as a pitcher. He no longer was considered a prospect at his original position, his 29th birthday approaching next month, and they optioned him on March 27 to begin the process.
Álvarez went 8-for-32 in 14 games with the Orioles. They wanted him to begin working in relief at Single-A Delmarva, setting April 10 as his debut date, to take advantage of a plus arm. He had a couple of bullpen sessions as part of his throwing progression before being shut down.
He also would have been allowed to serve as designated hitter on days he wasn’t pitching. A nice compromise for a player reluctant to put down the bat for good, in part because he earned extra money and reunited with his family playing winter ball.
The Orioles released Álvarez on April 6 to make room on the 40-man roster for left-hander Andrew Faulkner, but they re-signed him five days later. They never intended to walk away from him after an MRI revealed the tear in his elbow.
Álvarez has experience as a pitcher with 22 relief appearances over three seasons in Cuba in 2006, 2007 and 2009. He was 1-4 with a 3.62 ERA in 32 1/3 innings, allowing only one home run, walking 12 and striking out 18.
The Orioles gave Álvarez an $800,000 bonus in July 2013 after he defected from Cuba. He showcased for teams as a pitcher and revealed that the Red Sox expressed interest back in 2012.
Álvarez’s fastball was clocked at 95-96 mph in Cuba and he claimed that it touched 98 mph during the showcase. He was supposed to log about 50 innings this summer with an eye toward joining the Orioles during the 2018 season.
The timetable has been adjusted, but not trashed.
Manager Buck Showalter noted in spring training how Álvarez could “spin the ball” and possessed a decent changeup. It wasn’t only his velocity that attracted the Orioles.
Ramón Martinez, the Orioles’ special assignment pitching instructor, worked with Álvarez last offseason and likely will reconnect with him next year.
Álvarez is a career .293/.324/.434 hitter in the minors. Baseball America ranked him as the fifth-best prospect in the organization following the 2014 season.