As May neared its midpoint, we knew the series and pitching matchup we’ve all been hoping for was approaching. No, not Tigers vs. Rangers and Justin Verlander vs. Yu Darvish. I’m talking about Jose Alvarez’s Toledo Mud Hens facing Chris Bootcheck’s Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders.
But the matchup of mound monsters didn’t happen. Jose Alvarez continued his assassination of hitters on Tuesday, going six innings and giving up just two earned runs while striking out seven. Bootcheck pitched the next day. Maybe the pressure of seeing Alvarez’s performance got to him. Maybe he felt like he needed to give his former team a chance to live. Maybe he thought I was going to be in attendance and got nervous. It was his worst performance of the season.
He gave up eight runs on eight hits in just three innings. The good news is that he only walked two (control has always been a weakness) and, due to his ruthless pillaging of the International League before then, his ERA only rose to a still very respectable 3.00. In the three starts between we last met and Wednesday, he pitched 18 innings, gave up four earned runs and walked five while striking out 13. The Bootcheck legend found a new audience. The one hiccup can’t diminish a solid season.
But Alvarez can. He is done with the talk of the previous James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by (get at me Videxio) winner. He doesn’t have hiccups. Since we last checked in, Alvarez has given up a total of four runs while striking out 24. His 1.69 ERA is second in the International League.
He turned 24 earlier this month. He has been confirmed as a real person who can give quotes to the newspaper and everything. He is basically the younger, better, Venezuelan version of Chris Bootcheck. So he can do what his counterpart couldn’t, right? He can get a call up to the major leagues?
Well, no. I asked the question to MLive.com’s Chris Iott. Before continuing it’s important to note that while he works with enemy of the blog and master of the fake shoulder surgery James Schmehl, Iott is quite good at his job and seems like a really nice guy. He answered a question about Jose Alvarez after all.
Iott gave it to us straight. Despite the Detroit News saying that the Tigers would stick Jose Alvarez in their rotation “today” if needed, they don’t need him and there are plenty of people in line to make a start before Alvarez. The Tigers also have a pretty good long reliever in Drew Smyly, eliminating the other spot Alvarez could occupy.
But the biggest problem for Alvarez, and Bootcheck for that matter, is that they aren’t on the 40-man roster. To get there the organization has to designate somebody for assignment, opening them up to be claimed on waivers by another team. It’s going to be tough for Alvarez, and Bootcheck especially, to slither into one of those spots. They have to be so good they render another player in the organization useless. But the Tigers can’t ignore the merciless torching of the International League forever, especially from a guy who just turned 24.
Until Alvarez reaches that can’t-ignore point, there’s not much to do but watch more of the same — and figure out the probable pitching matchups for when the Mud Hens make the trip to Scranton on July 22.