Express reliever R.J. Alvarez named PCL All-Star

The Round Rock closer leads the PCL with 15 saves this season

R.J. Alvarez went to a small Catholic high school in Florida during high school and wasn't allowed to have long hair.

As soon as he got to college, he started pushing the boundaries and since then he's always been proud of his flow.

"I get one haircut a year and just let it ride from there," he said.

Alvarez - with his Sampson-like mane - has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the Express bullpen this season. He is Round Rock's only representative at the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 11 in Columbus, Ohio. It's his first All-Star selection.

The hard-throwing right-hander leads the PCL with 15 saves and is second behind only Lehigh Valley's Pedro Beato in saves across all of Triple-A. He has a 2.36 ERA in 27 games for the Express this season.

Alvarez joined the Express from the Chicago Cubs organization before last season and made 45 appearances for the team, finishing with a 4.43 ERA and was a perfect seven for seven in save opportunities.

"It's extra special because I was here all season last year," he said. "That's rare in Triple-A baseball. In the last year and a half, I've played with probably 60 or more guys here. I just turned 27 and I've played for five different organizations. I feel like there isn't a team I can play against where I don't know multiple guys."

Alvarez was a starter for the first two years at Florida Atlantic University and moved to the bullpen after his sophomore season.

He said the biggest challenge of being a reliever is the daily grind that starters don't have. Where starters only pitch a couple days a week, he comes to the ballpark every day not knowing if his name will be called.

And when it is, he's expected to go in and give up zero runs, regardless of what inning it is.

"As long as you don't overthink the situation, it's fine," he said. "There are almost no days off unless you literally can't go, which makes for a long season."

Originally a third-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels in 2012, he was traded to the San Diego Padres in July 2014 and made his major league debut later that season.

He was traded again in 2015, this time to the Oakland Athletics, and made 21 MLB appearances in 2015, finishing with a 9.90 ERA.

"It was a crazy experience," he said. "You've just got to try and realize it's the same game (in the majors leagues) and you throw the same pitches up there that you throw down here. The longer you're in it, you realize it's a business. When I got drafted, I thought was going to play for 15 years with the Angels. Within three years, I've been with five organizations."

The Express get right back into the swing of things at home after the three-day All-Star break, hosting the Oklahoma City Dodgers in a four-game series beginning July 12.

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