The much anticipated 2017 debut of Los Angeles Dodgers top pitching prospect Yadier Alvarez came to fruition on Monday, as the 21-year-old Cuban took the hill for the High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. The start came in Lancaster, known for its horribly windy conditions that turn routine fly balls into home runs.
While the environment didn’t seem to affect the flamethrower’s performance, Alvarez struggled all the same. The first play of the game was foreboding for the righty.
A line drive hit back to Alvarez evaded his glove and landed harmlessly behind the mound for an infield single. He couldn’t record the out, which led to a landslide. The following batter tripled and scored on a wild pitch.
A walk and another base hit led to an RBI groundout before an infield single and an inning-ending double play.
In the second, Alvarez got some serious help from his catcher, Will Smith. A one-out single was erased as Smith caught the runner trying to steal second base. That saved a run, as Alvarez allowed two more hits and threw his second wild pitch.
After an RBI single, Smith threw out the second attempted base stealer to end the inning. Things got even worse for Alvarez in the third.
The Jethawks’ No. 3 hitter led off the frame with a home run and their cleanup hitter singled. A popped-up bunt provided the first out, but Alvarez would follow by issuing his second walk of the game.
He was finally pulled after 65 pitches, only 38 of which were strikes. The next batter hit a three-run home run to close the book on Alvarez. He allowed seven runs on nine hits and issued two walks while failing to record a strikeout in 2.2 innings.
Alvarez showed off his arm strength early in the game. Per J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group, a scout clocked Alvarez’s fastball as high as 97 mph in the first inning, but the velocity dropped precipitously as the game wore on. Hoornstra captured video of Alvarez’s first inning:
Alvarez reportedly was sitting at 90-92 mph in the third inning and never touched triple digits, which he regularly did last season. While Alvarez’s debut doesn’t match up with his peers Mitchell White and Walker Buehler, there’s no real cause for concern yet.
He wasn’t throwing 100 mph when I saw him in 2016 Spring Training and there’s no indication that anything is wrong with him physically. Alvarez is scheduled to pitch again this weekend, in a home start for the Quakes. There’s hope that friendlier confines will yield more desirable results.
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