The last time Henderson Alvarez and Alfredo Simon were on the same team, it was as 2014 National League All-Stars. Now the two righthanders find themselves looking for a return to the majors, showcasing for scouts as Ducks.
The two have learned that Bethpage Ballpark can be quite the launching pad for former major leaguers looking for a way back to the Majors.
Entering play Wednesday, Alvarez and Simon were two of six pitchers and 11 Ducks players with MLB experience. Alvarez, signed on July 14, is looking to show that he can still play after having his second shoulder surgery in 14 months last September.
Alvarez, who last pitched in the majors in 2015 when he started four games for the Marlins, said he was told to go pitch in an Independent league after a tryout that 26 Major League teams, including the Yankees, attended.
“They just wanted to see me healthy and able to throw,” Alvarez, 27, said through an interpreter Tuesday night. “I decided to come here.”
Alvarez pitched for parts of five seasons in the Majors, three with Miami and two with Toronto. He was 27-34 with a 3.80 ERA and 296 strikeouts in 92 starts. He threw a no-hitter for the Marlins on the final day of the 2013 season. A year later, he was an All-Star. Three years later, he was gone from the game’s highest level, ravaged by injuries that he hopes are in his rearview.
The righthander’s first appearance with the Ducks did not yield encouraging statistical results. He allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits, walked three, and struck out none in two innings of the Ducks 8-2 loss to the New Britain Bees Tuesday in Central Islip.
“I was a little uncomfortable at first,” Alvarez said. “I haven’t faced batters live in a game yet. I’ve had practice with batters in the box, but not in the game.”
“He had a little bit of a control issue,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez observed. “The ball coming out of his hand, velocity-wise, looked good. I just thought his control was a factor and he paid for it. But it was his first outing in a while, so you try to look at the bright side of things. I think it will get better.”
As disappointing as the numbers were, Alvarez was encouraged by his physical abilities. “My arm didn’t bother me,” he said. “I felt good throwing. That’s what I was looking for. It’s a high note for me, to feel like I could get back to the big leagues.”
Simon has the same goal and, for a night anyway, endured the same struggles. The 36-year-old relieved Alvarez Tuesday and promptly allowed four runs (one earned) on three hits, struck out three, and walked two in three innings.
Simon was signed in early June and was 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in his first six appearances, five of which were starts.
Simon last pitched in the Major Leagues in 2016 with the Reds. He played parts of nine seasons with the Reds, Orioles, and Tigers, pitching to a 47-47 record with a 4.56 ERA and 529 strikeouts in 255 appearances (93 starts).
Simon faced Derek Jeter in that 2014 All-Star Game, yielding a line-drive single to rightfield in the Yankee great’s final All-Star at-bat of his career.
“Jeter is going to be in the Hall of Fame,” Simon said. “When you face hitters like that, who have been in the big leagues for 20 years, you’re never going to forget that.”
But Central Islip is a long way from the All-Star Game.
Contrast Tuesday night’s forgettable performance with Monday night’s 5-3 win over the Bees and the result is what many believe makes the Atlantic League special. Monday, the starting pitcher was not a former All-Star, but East Meadow’s Tyler Levine, a 24-year-old SUNY-Old Westbury alum with only two years of Independent baseball experience.
Levine turned in a solid performance, allowing two runs on four hits and striking out five in five innings.
“You never know in this game,” Baez said. “Tuesday, we had two 2014 All-Stars and Monday we had Levine. And we won Monday.”
On Deck: Ducks at Lancaster, Sunday 2 p.m.