Phillies left-handed reliever José Alvarado has had excellent start to the 2023 season.
On May 27, 2022 the Philadelphia Phillies optioned José Alvarado to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Through May last season Alvarado had walked more hitters than he had struck out and had an ERA around 8.00. He was recalled by the Phillies in June and turned his season around. From June through October, the hard-throwing left-hander brought his ERA down to 3.18 and struck out 81 batters over the course of the season in just 51 innings pitched.
Fast forward to the new season and Alvarado has started where he left off. To begin the 2023 season, Alvarado has faced 13 batters in 4 innings. One of those batters has reached base. Eleven of those batters have struck out. Alvarado has struck out the sides in his three of his four appearances. He has looked unhittable.
Alvarado's dominance is being noticed by his teammates too. Tim Kelly from PhilliesNation quoted a few Phillies players who have been in awe of Alvarado's performance thus far. Phillies' starter Aaron Nola had high praise for his teammate:
"Man, amazing. When they sent him down and he came back up from Triple-A last year, he was like a completely new pitcher. He’s throwing his cutter for strikes and strikeouts. And then, his fastball obviously is so electric and it sinks, so [against] righties and lefties it’s so good."- via Tim Kelly/ PhilliesNation
Other Phillies relievers have pitched well too. Andrew Bellatti has been called upon in all but two games so far and has yet to surrender a run. Connor Brogdon has also been used frequently and has pitched well in most of his appearances.
Some other relievers have struggled to start the season. Newly acquired Gregory Soto has been hit or miss. Like Alvarado, Soto has dominating stuff but if his command is off, he can get into trouble. Craig Kimbrel has been used in high leverage situations this year. The veteran closer has struggled early on giving up 5 earned runs in 3 innings pitched.
One would have to wonder if manager Rob Thomson will not start using Alvarado in later innings sooner rather than later given the left-hander's hot start. Thomson had said prior to the season that he did not plan on naming a full-time closer, but if someone pitched well enough to earn the spot, they would see time in the ninth inning. It is hard to find a pitcher in baseball who has had a better start out of the bullpen than Alvarado has. Maybe his time to close games is drawing nearer.