Lucky Henderson Alvarez, the second-year pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. Often on the day after a Grapefruit League game against the Boston Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field, the New York Yankees will send over a representative but hardly fearsome group to face the Blue Jays in Dunedin.
But the travel roster on the wall of the Yankees clubhouse for Wednesday's game had a lot of familiar names: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. Seems Alvarez will get a pretty decent measuring stick as he attempts to maintain his nominal No. 3 status in the Blue Jays rotation.
Spring training long ago ceased being the quaint endeavour of the past. It's big business, with games televised, and the Yankees especially treat a spring game at their Florida home like a regular-season production. For players, the emphasis in the spring is getting enough at bats and getting enough pitches – against both left-handers and right-handers – and sometimes that clashes with sensibilities that demand veteran players do not make two-hour bus trips or that teams in the same division sometimes like to keep their big-league pitchers away from each other.
For Alvarez, the opportunity to face big bats is fortunate. Brett Cecil has done well this spring, both in terms of results and adhering to the mechanical principles being stressed by manager John Farrell and pitching coach Bruce Walton. Dustin McGowan and Kyle Drabek are also in the mix, and general manager Alex Anthopoulos and his scouting staff are watching pitchers such as Gavin Floyd of the Chicago White Sox and Joe Blanton of the Philadelphia Phillies in case one of them becomes available at a bargain price.
Sources maintain the Blue Jays will not add another pitcher with a significant financial commitment at this time; that they are more likely to add a stop-gap, innings-eating starter if Drabek, Cecil or McGowan aren't up to it.
Alvarez made noise in his last start about incorporating his slider into his usual fastball and change-up mix. The Yankees will be a good test. What else is new?