Oakland Athletics: Who Will Win the Remaining Bullpen Job?

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Sep 29, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher R.J. Alvarez (37) pitches during the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher R.J. Alvarez (37) pitches during the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /

Right-Hander R.J. Alvarez

The Athletics have a shortage of left-handed options in the ‘pen, considering the fact that Doolittle will be reserved for the closer role. That just leaves Rzepczynski, who can’t possibly pitch every day. This factor does not bode well for the first name on our list: right-hander R.J. Alvarez.

Alvarez might not seem like one of the best relief options in camp, given his 9.90 ERA over 20 innings last season, but he has a few things going for him.

First of all, Alvarez is only 24 years old.

He’s hardly a finished product, so to write him off over one bad season would be a mistake. When he made his 10-game major league debut with San Diego in 2014, he posted a 1.13 ERA, allowing just one earned run, three hits and five walks in eight innings, while striking out nine batters.

Of course, it’s that high walk rate that hurts him.

With the Padres, he had a 15.2 percent walk rate, and last season in 20 innings as an Oakland A, he allowed a free pass to 13 percent of batters. That’s not too far off from double the league average.

Coming into camp, the young right-hander announced that he has added a two-seam fastball to his repertoire, and he’s lost some weight. He also spent the winter working on his delivery, trying to find a solution for his consistency issues.

However, so far this Spring Training, Alvarez has appeared in three games, pitching 3.1 innings and facing 19 batters. He’s allowed four hits and a pair of runs, while striking out two.

The biggest concern though, remains his control: two walks and three hit batsmen.

Spring Training isn’t the best source for determining if a pitcher will be successful, but Alvarez’s continued inconsistently proves that he needs a bit more time in the minor leagues to work on his new pitch and mechanics. Later in the season, he could be a key contributor for the A’s. As of right now, it seems likely that he’ll be one of the players who yo-yo between the minors and the majors when injuries and ineffectiveness create a need at the big league level.

Next: #3: A left-hander with a new pitch

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