John Farrell certainly knows how to set the Jays' twittarazzi a-spin. An off-handed comment of the possibility of bringing minor league wunderkind Henderson Alvarez to the big leagues has ignited harmonizing choruses of "that's awesome" and "it's too soon".
Alvarez is still just 21, but has moved somewhat quickly through the system and shown growth throughout each step up the ladder. After what appeared to be a possible step backwards in high-A Dunedin in 2009 and 2010, Alvarez lowered his ERA and WHIP in the jump to Double-A New Hampshire and maintained a K/9 rate in the sixes (6.1 at A+, 6.6 at AA). He's also touching 100 mph and sitting at 93-97 mph with his fastball, and no less an expert than ESPN's Keith Law describes his repetoire as "plus fastball/plus changeup/fringy curveball", which he says is "still a mid-rotation or better starter in the long term".
Our take is that Alvarez is still going to be throwing pitches even if he's not in the big leagues. So if he's passing the tests at each level (and we take it as a given that he's not going to Las Vegas because why in the name of all that's good would you send a pitching prospect there to get his brains smashed in), then maybe you give him a look and see what he can do with big league hitters.
The distinction that we'd draw about this potential callup is that the Jays shouldn't call up Henderson simply because they've run out of arms. If they need to see the season through to the end with Jesse Litsch as their fifth starter, then so be it. But if they feel as though Alvarez is potentially ready and they have an open slot (more on that in a moment), then let him pitch.
Felix Hernandez pitched in the big leagues at 19. Neftali Feliz was 21 and Michael Pineda was 22 when they got their first taste. There's no need to hold a player back simply because it seems prudent to do so.
(And yes, that's the Gordie Dougie argument as well. But we're not sure that he had proven himself ready - gaudy PCL stats aside - until a fair time into this season.)
Lost Del V?
Jays starter Carlos Villaneuva looked less than stellar last night, and he's been kicked around recently, leaving floaty junk up up up in the zone. Now comes the word that he's headed for an MRI on his shoulder, which at the very least means that there's a health concern and in the worst case scenario means he'll never pitch again.
(Hey, what part of "worst case" don't you understand?)
Villaneuva reached 97.2 innings pitched last night after tossing 52.2 in 2010. Even if the MRI comes back with mostly positive news, the notion that Villaneuva might need to be shut down for several weeks or the balance of the schedule shouldn't be met with shock or dismay. His shutdown date was likely to come soon, we'd imagine.
(And if we're thinking a bit more deviously: An MRI creates the rationale for a DL stint which opens a roster slot. Into which a young and upcoming pitcher may slide in nicely.)