Henderson Alvarez threw three innings for the High-A Stockton Ports on Wednesday. The right-hander threw 30 pitches, allowing one run on three hits with one strikeout. The outing marked the beginning of Alvarez's rehab assignment as he approaches the home stretch in his recovery from shoulder surgery last July.
The news has been consistently good regarding Alvarez's path back to the mound, and he has yet to experience any setbacks since signing with the Oakland A's in December. Pitchers are allowed to spend up to 30 days on a minor league rehab assignment, which means that Alvarez will need to come off the DL by around May 19. However, that doesn't necessarily mean we're guaranteed to see him in the A's rotation by that point, as he still has a minor league option remaining and could theoretically be stashed in Triple-A Nashville if the team doesn't think he's quite ready to return to the Majors.
When Alvarez does get the call, Oakland will add a former All-Star to its pitching staff. In 2014, at age 24, the right-hander made the NL squad as a member of the Marlins during a season in which he finished with a 2.65 ERA (140 ERA+) in 187 innings (30 starts) while striking out more than three batters per walk. He also threw a no-hitter on the final day of the 2013 season. It's impossible to know what to expect out of him upon his return, but he's still just 26 years old and has shown plenty of talent so far in his career.
In the meantime, Oakland's rotation has yielded generally positive results. Sonny Gray, Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman all sport sub-3.00 ERAs after three starts apiece, Rich Hill flashed his ability with a 10-strikeout effort in one of his outings, and even emergency fill-in Eric Surkamp has kept the A's close in all three of his games -- they've gone on to win two of Surkamp's starts. There is even a waiting list forming, as Jesse Hahn bides his time in Triple-A waiting for the call back to the bigs.
Hahn also pitched on Wednesday, but it wasn't a full outing. The right-hander was supposed to start for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds on Tuesday, but the game was rained out and rescheduled for Wednesday morning as part of a doubleheader. Rather than mess with the rotation any further, the team opted to limit Hahn to around three innings and/or 50 pitches so that he can be ready to start again Sunday (on three days' rest) and keep the rest of the unit on their regular turns (via Sounds broadcaster Jeff Hem).
In his abbreviated outing, Hahn threw 49 pitches but failed to make it out of the 3rd. His first two innings were quick and painless, but a pair of walks and a single in the 3rd were enough to plate a run and force a call to the bullpen. Hahn's final line: 2⅓ ip, 1 run, 2 Ks, 2 BB, 3 hits. Given the unusual nature of this game, I wouldn't read too much into the numbers on this one. Between having his routine interrupted by the postponement, and not having the chance to go his normal distance, I view this one as just Hahn putting his work in.
It remains to be seen how the rotation will shake out in the long run, and it could come down to a matter of who is the next hurler to get hurt, but it's nice to know that the supply will soon exceed the demand rather than the other way around. It's better to have tough decisions about which quality pitcher to leave in the minors, rather than worrying about finding stopgaps to plug the holes that inevitably open up in every team's staff. Top prospect Sean Manaea is also looking great in his first shot at Triple-A, with 17 strikeouts through a dozen innings in his first two starts.