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Your bi-weekly Jose Alvarez Update: As the Detroit Tigers begin, it begins

(AP)

Still guarding those bags. Or thinking about stealing them. Nobody — not even Alvarez — knows. (AP)

It’s Opening Day. Get Excited! After today, there’s only 161 games left in the playoff stretch. This Tigers-Twins game could have some serious Wildcard implications. Yet, the Tigers’ most dangerous weapon remains in the minors.

Your James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by (sponsor pending) winner, Jose Alvarez, has been banished to AAA, a.k.a ‘Where JMMA Winners Go To Die.’ When the Mud Hens begin their season, he’ll be in the starting rotation. At what spot? Who knows.

But there’s a chance that it could be the International Man of Mystery who takes the ball in Toledo’s opener on Thursday.

The Tigers liked Alvarez. As most of his similarly doomed teammates were sent down during spring training, Alvarez stayed around until just about the end.

“We want him to start to get stretched out,” manager Jim Leyland told detroittigers.com in regard to Alvarez. “We liked what we saw.”

With that there’s hope.

Before the regular season has even started, the Tigers have offered more public support of Alvarez than they did in one entire season of Chris Bootcheck.

Jose Alvarez is no washout. He is no roster filler organizational guy. We don’t know enough about him to give him those labels. We don’t know enough about him to label him with the name Jose Ricardo Alvarez. I’m convinced he changed his last name to escape the Venezuelan mafia, or something like that.

Eleven years younger, a future ahead of him and a starter instead of a reliever, Alvarez has a legitimate chance to become the first JMMA winner (including the original James Mungro) to actually make the intended club.

He has hope. Hope that he is in control of his own destiny. Hope that the game isn’t as ruthless as they say. Hope that people can recognize talent and, in this hyper play-it-safe, do-just-enough-not-to-get-fired sports world, people are still willing to give a shot to a relative unknown.

Sometimes that hope is all we have. And sometimes, that’s all we need.

***

On another note, our former champion, Chris Bootcheck has a job for the foreseeable future.

A non-roster invitee to Yankees training camp, the organization signed him to a minor league deal. At 34 years old, Bootcheck is on the roster for the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. Most of his teammates are 10 years younger than him. The youngest teammate, pitcher Brett Marshall, was born in 1990. Chris Bootcheck was in the seventh grade when Marshall was born.

Bootcheck doesn’t have the same hope. He’s probably destined to remain a AAA “washout” until teams stop calling. But he has something no one outside else has: the 2012 James Mungro Memorial Award (sponsored by sponsor pending). While I’m expecting Bootcheck to flame out this year as his body finally breaks down, he’ll always be remembered as a trail blazer.

Let’s have a preemptive moment of silence for whenever Bootcheck finally decides his baseball life is over.

….

***

Now, back to baseball.

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