Despite the season-ending elbow injury sustained by ace Jose Fernandez and their predictable slide in the standings, there are still plenty of reasons to watch the Miami Marlins this season. There's Giancarlo Stanton and his weekly tape measure home runs, There's Marcell Ozuna and his cannon for a right arm in the outfield. But above all else, there's right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who on Saturday was announced as an All-Star replacement for Washington Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann.
Alvarez is a worthy selection, having posted a 6-4 record with a 2.63 ERA and three shutouts during the first half of the season. But forget about the numbers for a minute. What really stands out about Alvarez has nothing to do with his performance. Instead, it's the novelty windup that he employs on the first pitch of every game he starts.
Every game. No exceptions. And we hope he'll feel it's appropriate to break it out for a likely relief appearance in the All-Star game, because it would be awesome to finally see it on the national stage.
The windup is a sight to behold. It's almost a throwback to the golden days when elaborate windups seemed to be the norm. Alvarez dips to a crouching position, pauses momentarily, and then rises and lifts the ball over his head in one motion. From there, he finishes with a more standard windup, only nothing about it can be considered standard given what happens before it.
It's a one pitch a game treat for obvious reasons. Repeating that delivery up to 100 times just isn't very appealing and probably isn't comfortable, either. But Alvarez is still proud of it because it's one he came up with on his own.
“I invented it myself,” Alvarez said of the funky windup, which he started using in the minors. “I liked it and stuck with it. One inning only. The first pitch.”
Given the success Alvarez has enjoyed over his four big league seasons, and particularly the past 12 months — he also tossed a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers on the final day of the 2013 regular season — the funky windup is likely to remain a part of his arsenal. That's the good news. But the best news would be him breaking it out on Tuesday night at Target Field.
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