MINNEAPOLIS — It took an injury and a spot opening up for the Marlins’ Henderson Alvarez to land a place on the All-Star team.
But if you ask the players who have faced him this season, the 24-year-old right-hander with the fourth-lowest ERA in the league (2.63) was more than deserving of the recognition.
“When he pitched against us [last month in a 4-3 Marlins win], it was like he was pitching in a video game. He’s really good,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said.
“I’m happy I don’t have to face him in my division every month. His pitches have a lot of movement. He throws fast, good off-speed. He hits his spots, too. I’m waiting for someone to hit a home run on that first-pitch [delivery] so maybe he won’t do it anymore. He’s a great pitcher and very deserving of being here.”
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said Alvarez, who struck him out twice and held him hitless in three at-bats this season, has taken a huge step in development.
“Last year he was making a lot of mistakes over the plate. This year that two-seamer is running at our hips,” Freeman said.
“He’s starting at [left-handed hitters’] hips and running it right back over the side of the plate. He’s hitting his corners. His changeup is devastating this year. Seems like he had two different fastballs, too. He’s got one at 94, 95 and then another one at 91. Then he has a changeup at 86. He’s definitely learned how to pitch. That staff is going to be something special in the next couple years when Jose Fernandez comes back healthy.”
Freeman said the slow curveball Alvarez likes to use occasionally to keep hitters off balance “makes me laugh.”
“He’s done it two times and both times I start laughing midway through the pitch,” Freeman said. “Maybe he does it because it gets me all out of the at-bat. I think he’s fun to watch.”
Said Phillies second baseman Chase Utley: “He’s showing you what he can do now that he’s past those injuries. He’s tough. I feel like he knows what he’s doing out there now on the mound.
“He’s got a good game plan, and he’s able to execute his pitches.”
Rizzo, a sixth-round pick of the Red Sox in 2007 out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Broward County, made the National League All-Star team through the final fan vote.
“It means a lot because so many people along the way growing up in Florida, South Florida, helped me,” Rizzo, 24, said. “All the travel teams, Little League teams, high school. It’s been a ride I’ll never forget. I’m going to enjoy every second of it and soak it all in.”
Rizzo said his mother, father, brother and sister-in-law all made the trip from South Florida to enjoy the All-Star experience with him.
“I want them to enjoy it, too,” he said. “They deserve it as much as anyone.”