Phillies’ never-ending-search for pitching turns to reclamation project Henderson Alvarez

The Phillies’ never-ending search for pitching leads to a possible reclamation project Sunday, a move that will set a team record and sets up a six-man rotation to end the season. 

Former NL All-Star Henderson Alvarez, who hasn’t appeared in a big league game in two years, will become the Phillies’ 31st player to pitch when the right-hander starts the final game of the series against Oakland. It will break the team record for most hurlers in a season set in 2015. 

“We’ll get a look at him and see what he looks like,” manager Pete Mackanin said Saturday. “We could use some starters.”

With Aaron Nola the only likely lock for the 2018 rotation, the Phils will go with an extra starter to close the season. Alvarez will join Nick Pivetta, Nola, Jake Thompson, Mark Leiter Jr. and Ben Lively. 

“They’re younger pitchers and we’re just giving them that little extra day’s rest,” Mackanin said. “Plus, get a look, an audition, for Alvarez.”

Alvarez, a Venezuelan, was once one of the top prospects in Toronto. With a zippy fastball, solid sinker and changeup, he jumped directly from Double A to the majors in 2011 before being traded to Miami. 

He first went on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation in 2012, and his 2013 season started late because of lingering issues. 

But he closed 2013 with a no-hitter against Detroit on the final day of the season, frustrating the Tigers into poor contact while striking out only four. Alvarez was an All-Star in 2014 and led the majors with three complete games in late July before he was shelved with more shoulder pain. 

After being named the Marlins’ opening-day starter in 2015, he went 0-4 with a 6.45 ERA in four starts before July shoulder surgery. 

Alvarez signed with Oakland before last season, but his comeback was cut short by two more shoulder surgeries. 

“Twice he was so close to pitching for us,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He was really on his last rehab game when he got hurt again before he was going to start for us.”

Alvarez, who is only 27, couldn’t get a job and he was pitching for the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League when the Phillies signed him last month. 

“I think the key is to just see how the ball is coming out of his hand if he’s healthy,” Mackanin said. “I know at one point — I’ve seen him before — he was quite good.”

After three starts and a 2.84 ERA at Triple A Lehigh Valley, Alvarez is finally set to return to the majors. 

“I’ll be on the other side of it and certainly we want to win, but it puts a smile on your face to know how hard he’s worked to get back,” Melvin said. “After the second injury, you have a hard time thinking he’ll get back to the big leagues. I’m sure it’s hard work and perseverance that got him here, so hats off to him.”

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