Rays reliever Jose Alvarado has been a go-to option for the team in high-leverage situations, but the left-hander has struggled since missing almost a month because of a family medical matter. As a result, the Rays will try to use Alvarado in lower impact spots for the time being, manager Kevin Cash suggested (via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times).
Alvarado boasted a 1.04 ERA as late as May 15, though that figure rose to 3.09 before he took his leave June 1. It’s now up to 4.85 since his June 29 return, largely because of a catastrophic performance in a 9-6 loss to the Orioles on Wednesday. Alvarado entered a 3-3 game in the top of the ninth and proceeded to allow six runs (five earned) on four hits, including a homer, and a walk in two-thirds of an inning.
Factoring in his horrific two-out showing, Alvarado has tossed 26 innings with a 3.55 FIP, which is significantly worse than the 2.27 he posted during a great 2018 campaign. Alvarado has continued to pump high-90s heat and strike out upward of 11 batters per nine, though his control has tanked. The 24-year-old’s first-pitch strike percentage has dropped approximately 14 percent since he debuted in the league in 2017, when he walked fewer than three hitters per nine. Alvarado’s BB/9 is now all the way up to 5.88. His home run rate has also fattened by 7 percent since 2018, though it’s still an above-average 9.5 on the year.
Cash noted the Rays will need both Alvarado and fellow flamethrowing reliever Diego Castillo – who lead the team with seven saves each – to return to form if the club’s going to maintain a playoff spot. At 50-38, the Rays are a game up on the AL’s No. 1 wild-card position. Both Alvarado and Castillo helped the Rays’ cause earlier in the season, but the latter also saw his production crater before going to the injured list June 23 with shoulder inflammation. The hope is that he’ll return right after the All-Star break, according to Topkin.
The right-handed Castillo, 25, entered June with a 2.12 ERA, only to see it rocket to 3.93 in a six-appearance span. Like Alvarado, Castillo has battled more control and homer problems than he grew accustomed to last season. Castillo’s walk rate has climbed from 2.86 per nine to 4.19 since then, and he has surrendered HRs on 17.9 percent of fly balls after yielding them at a 12 percent clip as a rookie in 2018. While Castillo has struck out almost 10 hitters per nine and induced ground balls just under 53 percent of the time, his 4.55 FIP still pales in comparison to last year’s 3.30.
As with Alvarado and Castillo, infielder Matt Duffy was an important Rays contributor last year whose 2019 hasn’t gone according to plan. In fact, thanks to back and hamstring injuries, Duffy hasn’t played at all this season. However, Duffy did just restart a rehab assignment for the first time in over a month, per Topkin. The 28-year-old had to halt his previous rehab stint May 22 after re-aggravating his hamstring injury.