The Phillies announced Wednesday that closer Jose Alvarado has been placed on the 15-day injured list due to inflammation in his left elbow. His IL stint is retroactive to May 8. Right-hander Andrew Bellatti has been reinstated from the 15-day injured list in place of Alvarado.
The team hasn’t provided a timetable on the injury yet, but the loss of Alvarado even for a minimal stint is a notable blow to the roster. Alvarado, who signed a two-year extension prior to the season, has been one of the most dominant relievers in Major League Baseball this season. He’s fired 14 1/3 innings of 1.88 ERA ball with a sensational 46.2% strikeout rate that trails only Cincinnati’s Alexis Diaz for the MLB lead. More impressive is the fact that Alvarado, whose previous command issues are well documented, has yet to issue a walk or hit a batter so far in 2023.
With Alvarado sidelined for at least the next the Phillies will likely turn to a combination of Craig Kimbrel, Seranthony Dominguez and perhaps Gregory Soto to close down games. Alvarado leads the team with five saves but hasn’t been the sole closer anyhow, as Kimbrel has three saves of his own.
Kimbrel was tagged for three runs in his first appearance of the season before going on a dominant stretch of 10 appearances (10 2/3 innings, two runs, 14-to-4 K/BB ratio). He’s since slipped again, yielding a combined six runs in one inning during two appearances at Dodger Stadium earlier this month, which sent his ERA careening to its current 7.62 level. Dominguez saved nine games for the 2022 Phillies but currently has a 5.02 ERA and has seen his strikeout rate plummet from 29.5% to 20.5% in 2023. Soto notched 30 saves for the 2022 Tigers and is sporing a career-best 30.8% strikeout rate, but he’s also walked 13.8% of his opponents, which has contributed to a lackluster 4.50 ERA.
Suffice it to say, the Phillies certainly aren’t lacking in talented arms with closing experience. However, Alvarado was the only one of the bunch performing at an elite (or even above-average) level early in the 2023 season. They’ll hope for a quick turnaround with no long-term, lingering effects — due both to his general excellence and the nature of the contract he signed six weeks ago. Alvarado would’ve been a free agent following the 2023 season, but he signed a two-year, $18.55MM extension with a club option for a third year in 2026.