Dodgers top pitching prospect and the organization’s number two overall ranked prospect Yadier Alvarez made his 2017 debut with the team’s Advanced Single-A affiliate Rancho Cucamonga Quakes against the Lancaster JetHawks (Rockies) on Monday night at The Hangar in Lancaster.
It did not go well.
“I felt from a fastball perspective he did a pretty good job being able to be in the zone a little bit,” said Quakes manager Drew Saylor about the 21-year-old Cuban star right-hander. “I felt what hurt him a little bit was not being able to efficiently throw his off-speed for strikes and I felt that that got him into deeper counts. He got some foul balls that kind of drove up his pitch count and that type of thing.
“For me, fastball was priority one – doing so for a strike – and then as he develops the off-speed pitch a little bit more, not even develop it, just be able to execute it for a strike, I think that would have changed the entire complexity of the at-bats in the game,” added the Quakes skipper.
Alvarez lasted only 2.1 innings in the eventual 9-5 loss, during which he allowed seven runs on nine hits – including a solo home run – while walking two and striking out none to begin his Cal League career with an unsightly 27.00 earned run average.
“I felt good, I was not good,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “The mound was good, it’s just the wind – there was a lot of wind – it was just kind of hard.”
As you might expect, making his first start under the lights in a bigger stadium and a larger crowd than the games he played with the Arizona Rookie League Dodgers at extended spring training caused a few butterflies for the young Matanzas, Cuba native.
“I felt emotion a lot because what I do, I do for my family and for myself because I like baseball a lot,” Alvarez said. “I didn’t do good tonight but I will learn from it.”
Alvarez joins a Quakes team that is absolutely loaded with pitching talent, especially the starting rotation. What is it like to join a team that includes some of the best pitching talent in the entire Dodgers organization?
“I’m going to have to train a lot and I’m going to have to fix a lot of things so that I’m ready to compete [with them],” Alvarez answered.
Although the final score may not reflect it, the Quakes offense hit the ball hard, deep and frequent on Monday night – it just didn’t fall for them.
“We’ve been swinging the bats pretty well,” Saylor said. “I think the one thing that was really nice is that even though we got down early by a pretty substantial margin, we still put together some good at-bats – guys competed, good energy on the bases – that type of stuff.”
Again, although the final score doesn’t reflect it, the Rancho squad actually had the tying run at the plate with two outs in the top half of the seventh inning, but Quakes first baseman Ibandel Isabel lined out on a very hard hit ball directly at JetHawks left fielder Sam Hilliard to end the inning.
In spite of their efforts, the dagger through the heart of the Quakes were the nine men that they left on base and going 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
On the bright side, Quakes right-hander Adam Bray was absolutely brilliant in his 4.0 innings of relief. The just-turned-24-year-old (on April 14) Minneapolis, Minnesota native allowed no runs and only one hit while striking out four and walking none. In fact, the entire Quakes bullpen continues to dominate, with fellow reliever Alex Hermeling allowing only two runs on three hits with a strikeout and a walk in his 1.2 innings of relief behind Alvarez.
The Quakes and JetHawks square off for game-2 of the four-game series on Tuesday night at The Hangar in Lancaster, with just-named Cal League Pitcher of the Week Mitchell White (1-0, 0.00 ERA) taking the mound for the Quakes. White will be opposed by JetHawks right-hander Colin Welmon (1-0, 4.09 ERA), with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 pm PT.