Pedro Alvarez wasn’t supposed to be in Sunday’s starting lineup; he was forced into it when Danny Valencia’s hamstring tightened up on him minutes before first pitch.
That also meant Alvarez, known for his bat and not his glove, would have to start at third base for the first time since May 28, 2016.
This is baseball. Only two things could have happened Sunday.
Alvarez could have been the goat or the hero — there are no other alternatives in these stories. Luckily for the Orioles, Alvarez played hero — hitting two home runs in the Orioles’ 5-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
“You’ve got to be ready for stuff like that to happen,” Alvarez said of his 11th hour entrance into the starting lineup. “Obviously, it doesn’t happen very often. I don’t know, it was weird. I didn’t skip a beat. I put on my jockstrap and my cup and I headed downstairs.”
It was the second time in three games that Alvarez had homered twice — and his team won both of those contests for their first series victory at Camden Yards in 2018.
Alvarez handled three grounders at third base, and although they weren’t particularly smooth — two throws were challenges for Trey Mancini at first base — he got the job done.
And he did a whole lot more than that with the bat, driving in three on two swings. Alvarez now has six homers in 59 at-bats.
“I just always trust in myself and in my abilities. No matter the situation, no matter if I’m going well or not going well. Like I’ve said many times before, you can’t control the results and you can’t control that I’ve had four home runs in three games,” said Alvarez, who was signed by the Orioles during spring training for the third straight year.
“At the same token, you can’t sometimes control the 0-fers. But I try to put myself in the best position to succeed every time I (see) a pitch. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that consistently over the last couple days and, when you can do that consistently, over and over, you’ll get the results over time. That’s all I plan on doing.”
Lots of roster movement
Outfielder Joey Rickard started two consecutive games with the Orioles after his recall from Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday. And now he is heading back to the minors.
Such is life as an Orioles player with minor league options.
Rickard, who was 1-for-5 with three walks this weekend, was demoted after Sunday’s game. He will be replaced on the active roster Tuesday by designated hitter Mark Trumbo, who has been sidelined throughout April with a quad injury.
The Orioles are also going to put Luis Sardinas on the disabled list with a lower back injury, according to manager Buck Showalter. The club is expected to call up another utility infielder, and the guess is that will be Engelb Vielma, the only other infielder currently on the 40-man roster.
There could be more roster juggling if Valencia is not available due to his hamstring injury, but Showalter is hopeful not having him play Sunday will allow Valencia to be ready for Tuesday.
“Danny, he should be a player (Tuesday), especially after we get in some different weather,” Showalter said. “The thought is that it was a good idea (to scratch him from the lineup) and they think after the doctor looking at it that he may be OK and not have to go on the disabled list. But we’ll see.”
Closer duties up in the air?
With starter Kevin Gausman leaving Sunday’s game with two outs in the sixth after a solid outing, Showalter decided to bring de facto closer Brad Brach into the game. Brach lasted 1 ⅓ innings and gave up two earned runs before passing the relief baton to Mychal Givens for a scoreless inning.
Darren O’Day then entered for the ninth and picked up the save with a spotless frame in which he struck out two.
It was the second consecutive save opportunity in which Showalter has summoned O’Day — the other was last Friday in the first game of the homestand — and the second straight time O’Day has converted.
Meanwhile, Sunday was the first time Brach had entered a game in the sixth inning since June 1, 2016.
So, what’s going on at closer?
Showalter said he is just playing matchups and availability. And he’s said he would do that with regular closer Zach Britton on the disabled list until the end of May.
“(Brach) was the guy equipped to pitch two innings today. I was hoping he would pitch the seventh and the eighth in a perfect world. Just because of where we are in the bullpen,” Showalter said. “We talked about it in the spring that there were going to be some times where guys were going to move around, in what may be conventional in the past with Zach here. And a lot of it plays to the lineup, too, that we’re facing.”
Showalter said he was considering bringing in lefty Richard Bleier if the matchup determined it.
I hear what he is saying, but I also think that O’Day has moved ahead of Brach on the depth chart for closer. If both are available for the club’s next save opportunity, my gut is that Showalter will go to O’Day.
I’m not saying he is afraid to use Brach, who has struggled this year, or Givens or even Bleier in those situations. And I certainly think Brach will get more opportunities to close if the right situation arises.
But Showalter is pretty old school, and I know he likes having someone set to go to in the ninth if possible. And I think, all things being equal, that’s going to be O’Day, for now, if he continues to have success with the role.