Henderson Alvarez hasn’t talked to the A’s media for a couple of months now, not because of any Trump-ish view of the media, but simply because there hasn’t been much to say.
With a month and a half left in the season, that’s changing. The right-handed starter on whom the A’s had high hopes sat down Saturday and talked to me about his optimism that despite everything, he would pitch for the A’s this season.
And if that means pitching in relief for the first time since 2011, he’s cool with that.
“I wouldn’t go against what the manager wants to do,” the Venezuelan-born Alvarez said through an interpreter. “I’ve always been a starter, but mostly I just want to contribute.”
The A’s still see Alvarez as a starter, but for the moment the club has to deal with the realities of time. The season is over in just over seven weeks. That’s plenty of time for Alvarez to build up his arm strength if he was going to throw an inning here or there out of the bullpen, but maybe not enough to build up to being a starter.
On top of that, the minor league season ends on Sept. 5, meaning he has just two weeks to get into an injury rehabilitation game before the A’s minor league affiliates call the regular season quits. He’s about ready to start throwing bullpen sessions, but gearing up that quickly seems undoable.
Still, Alvarez is getting geared up to pitch again, and that has him feeling good, because this season hasn’t gone at all the way he’d hoped. Right now, pitching in relief sounds pretty good to someone his teammates say just wants to compete.
“If it’s relief, I’d be encouraged,” Alvarez said. He’s pitched in relief seven times in the minor leagues. He has been in 92 Major League games, and all of those have been starts. “I just want to be out there.”
Oakland took a flier on the 2014 National League All-Star, signing him as a free agent last December, knowing that there was no way he would be able to pitch for the club for at least the first six weeks of the season.
Alvarez had spent the second half of the 2015 on the disabled list in Miami following July surgery on his shoulder that year. The A’s medical team checked him out and determined it was reasonable to expect Alvarez back in May or June.
And it wasn’t unreasonable. He made three injury rehabilitation assignment starts in May, but in the last of them felt discomfort and had to be shut down for three weeks. Then came two more starts in June, but in the second of those there was more discomfort and another two months was lost to recovery and slow buildup.
“It was very disappointing both times to get as close as I did,” Alvarez said. “There was no warning, but these things happen. It’s not in my control.”
“It’s definitely been a difficult season. But I never gave up. And now I’m feeling good again.”
Alvarez played catch up to 105 feet Saturday and will play up to 120 feet Sunday, after which he says he expects to start throwing bullpen sessions.