June 9, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jose Alvarez (52) pitches in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Anibal Sanchez was scratched from his scheduled start on Sunday due to some shoulders stiffness, so the Detroit Tigers called up Jose Alvarez from AAA Toledo to make a spot start. Alvarez was having a fantastic start to the year with the Mud Hens — he owned a 2.42 ERA and 9.2 K/9 rate in 74.1 innings pitched in the minors this season — and he didn’t miss a beat as he made his first foray into Major Leauge pitching.
Alvarez was brilliant in his debut, going six strong innings with three hits allowed, one walk, and one run — a Ryan Raburn home run — to go with seven strikeouts. Alvarez doesn’t overpower hitters with big velocity — his fastball only went up to about 91 mph — but he mixed his pitches and locations effectively and didn’t allow hitters to get comfortable against him.
Unfortunately for Alvarez, however, this gig was for one day only. He was optioned back to Toledo immediately following the game.
The Tigers don’t figure on needing to put Sanchez on the disabled list, so keeping Alvarez in Detroit would mean that their bullpen — their unquestionably questionable bullpen — would be effectively a man down as they hit the road for six games in Kansas City and Minnesota.
If this was a hockey game, Alvarez would have certainly been named the first star of the game, but one of the other stars of the game would certainly have been Don Kelly. The inclusion of Kelly in the lineup drew the usual “stupid Leyland” comments from the fan base writ large, but Kelly walked twice and launched what ended up being a decisive three-run home run off of Justin Masterson in the sixth inning.
Kelly’s home run would be the only extra base hit the Tigers would get on the afternoon.