Dario Alvarez is not an average New York-Penn League pitcher. On Wednesday morning, he delivered a performance that was anything but average.
The left-hander fanned a season-high 12 batters while allowing just one hit over six scoreless innings. Though Alvarez did not earn a decision, Brooklyn went on to edge host Lowell, 3-2.
The average age of New York-Penn League pitchers is 21 1/2; for batters it is just 21 years old. Alvarez turned 24 in January and had been out of affiliated baseball since 2009, when he was released by the Phillies after three seasons with their Dominican Summer League affiliate.
The Mets expressed interest in Alvarez after seeing him pitch for Anzoategui in the Venezuelan Winter League last year -- though the southpaw fanned five and walked just one batter over 5 1/3 innings, he also surrendered five runs on seven hits for an 8.44 ERA in three appearances. Nevertheless, the Mets signed him to a Minor League contract in January, and he made his stateside debut against Hudson Valley on June 23.
"We're trying to give him a chance to start and build confidence," said Cyclones pitching coach Marc Valdes. "He's left-handed, has a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a big-league slider, but he's had trouble repeating his delivery.
"He's worked really hard and wowed a lot of coaches. It's great to see that work pay off in his outing today."
Alvarez came into Wednesday morning's game with a 1-2 record, a 5.40 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings, but he overwhelmed the Spinners from the very start.
Alvarez struck out the side in the first inning and fanned two more in the second before surrendering a leadoff double to Lowell second baseman Cleuluis Rondon in the third. Alvarez responded by retiring the next four batters via the strikeout.
Forrestt Allday drew a one-out walk in the fourth and stole second, but no other Spinner reached base as Alvarez set down the final eight batters he faced in order. He threw 75 pitches and faced two over the minimum.
"He was under control and repeating his delivery well today," Valdes said. "He got ahead of hitters with the fastball and put them away with that slider."
Patrick Biondi singled in a run in the second inning to give the Cyclones an early edge, but Brooklyn reliever Dawrin Frias was unable to hold the lead for Alvarez. Allday led off the seventh with a triple to right and scored on Kevin Mager's sacrifice fly to tie the score, 1-1.
The teams traded runs in the eighth. Brooklyn strung together three two-out singles from Matt Oberste, James Roche and Tomas Nido, but Lowell answered when Tzu-Wei Lin drove in Rondon with a grounder back up the middle.
The Cyclones took the lead for good on L.J. Mazzilli's third hit of the game, an RBI double in the ninth, and Brooklyn reliever Johnny Magliozzi notched his first professional save by fanning three straight Spinners in the bottom of the frame. Lowell struck out 17 times in the game.
Frias improved to 1-0 despite twice losing the lead and allowing two runs on three hits over two innings. Lowell's Taylor Grover (0-2) took the loss after giving up a run on two hits and two walks in 1 1/3 innings.
John Parker is an editor for MiLB.com.