Maybe "workhorse" is too strong a term to use in describing left-handed reliever Jose Alvarez. Yes, he's pitched in 64 games over each of the last two seasons. Yes, he leads the league in appearances this season. And yes, he's on pace to pitch in exactly half of the 162 games scheduled for 2017.
His 26 appearances this season leads the team and is tied for the American League lead. However, his appearances haven't been overly taxing if broken down by individual outings.
"Reliable," perhaps, might be a bit more accurate term in evaluating the importance of Alvarez, who recorded his first major league save on April 28 at Texas. In doing so, he became the first lefty to earn a save for the Angels since Scott Downs did it on July 23, 2012, at Kansas City.
"Even though those appearances are there, I think his pitch count for each appearance in very low," manager Mike Scioscia said. "But yeah, we've projected a lot of numbers and they kind of get a little scary if the pace keeps up."
Alvarez pitched in six of the 10 games on the road trip, which came to an end Sunday in Miami. He has not allowed a score in 20 of his 26 appearances this season and is a key reason the Angels bullpen leads the American League in percentage of inherited runners scored (22.2%). Angels relievers have stranded 58 of 75 inherited runners. Alvarez leads the group, stranding 16 of 19.
"These guys have held up fine," Scioscia said. "We've been able to get them two days off here or there where they really need it. But whether it's (Bud) Norris, or whether it's been (Blake) Parker, or Jose, these guys have pitched quite a bit.
Scioscia said the schedule is part of the reason Alvarez and the rest of the bullpen have had a heavy workload.
The schedule "has been insane for the first third of the season," he said. "I don't think I've ever seen a schedule where there have been virtually no days off.
"But it is what it is, so a product of that is the guys have been asked to go out there a couple more times than maybe they would have if we had some off days. Or come back on maybe not quite as much rest as they would have with off days."
Staying on top of the arms and monitoring their use is a key moving forward. That's where pitching coach Charlie Nagy and bullpen coach Scott Radinsky take over.
"The first thing they consider is a pitcher being at risk, to see if they're available or not," Scioscia said. "And when these guys are not available, they don't pitch."
Although Alvarez will continue to be a mainstay out of the Angels bullpen, Scioscia is hopeful that the remaining schedule can offer at least partial relief.
"Hopefully we've gone through the rough part of our schedule, and the schedule will kind of ease a bit, which will take some of the burden off of those guys that have to pitch maybe without as much rest as they would have," Scioscia said.
Bud Norris' right knee reacted well on Saturday. Norris was forced to leave Friday's game because of tightness in the knee after only three pitches. But on Saturday he worked a full inning, striking out one in the ninth, to close out a 5-2 win. The only hit he allowed was a solo homer to Marcell Ozuna. … Huston Street, who went on the 60-day disabled list April 1 because of a strained right lat, threw a perfect inning for triple-A Salt Lake City on Saturday. Street struck out two in his second perfect inning of work since the injury. … Cam Bedrosian (right groin strain) continues to progress. He'll begin to pitch this week. … Yunel Escobar (hamstring) ran the bases, took batting practice and fielded ground balls back in Anaheim and is close to a return, according to Scioscia. … No starter has been named for Tuesday. David Wright was tentatively scheduled for that start before being optioned to triple-A Salt Lake City on Saturday.