Jose Alvarado was in his normal, jovial mood following Tuesday's Phillies win, moments after manager Rob Thomson revealed he had been unavailable with left wrist tightness.
Alvarado said he hoped to show up Wednesday and be ready out of the bullpen.
That wasn't the case and won't be for a little while. The Phils placed their dominant left-handed reliever on the 15-day injured list Wednesday with left elbow inflammation.
They received good news after the game, however. Further testing showed nothing more than inflammation. Alvarado will still be shut down from throwing a baseball for a few days, and while he will go with the team on its upcoming six-game road trip to Colorado and San Francisco, it doesn't seem like he'll be activated when first eligible May 23.
"We'll shut him down for a while and really take good care of this guy, we're not going to rush him back at all," Thomson said after the Phils' 2-1, walk-off win over the Blue Jays.
Thomson admitted earlier in the day that he was concerned. Alvarado is an integral piece of the Phillies' pitching staff.
"Well, yeah, I mean, he's a big part of the bullpen," Thomson said. "He's one of the best relievers in baseball, if not the best. Yeah, I'm a little concerned for sure."
It is always worrisome when a pitcher comes up with an elbow injury, particularly a pitcher who throws 100 mph consistently and has a high-effort delivery like Alvarado. He has not been overworked this season, appearing in 14 of the Phillies' first 36 games. That's a full-season pace of 63 games, a mark he's hit three times in his career. He's been used in back-to-back games only once.
"I don't even know what to say," Alvarado said. "This is a really difficult game and unfortunately, we can't control everything.
"I'm happy. I'm happy to see my teammates win. It's a little bit of inflammation in my elbow, a couple days' rest and that's it."
Alvarado had been basically splitting setup and closer duties with Craig Kimbrel. If the eighth inning of a close game presented difficult left-handed matchups, it would go to Alvarado. If there were tough righties, it would be Kimbrel, with the other pitcher following in the ninth.
Kimbrel appeared in both games of the Blue Jays series and had his best fastball of the season. He hit 99 mph on Tuesday and consistently zoomed 95-96 mph fastballs by Toronto hitters in or just above the strike zone Wednesday. He's also hitting corners and effectively throwing his breaking ball.
This version of Kimbrel would go a long way in offsetting the temporary loss of Alvarado.
"The velocity's jumped, the breaking ball's been really good and he's throwing strikes, just pounding the ball through the zone," Thomson said. "It's huge."
Alvarado dominated in the second half last season but had never been better than he was in the 14 appearances so far this season. He struck out 24 with no walks. His opponents had a .192 on-base percentage. Both sides have been ecstatic about the early returns since Alvarado signed an extension with the Phillies in November through at least 2025 that guaranteed him $18.55 million in new money with a chance to earn more.
With Alvarado out, lefty Gregory Soto will slot into that role alongside Kimbrel. Soto has appeared in a league-leading 19 games but five of them have been less than an inning. Soto and Seranthony Dominguez had the same lefty-righty thing going as Alvarado and Kimbrel, just in the sixth and seventh innings.
It also makes Matt Strahm, who just moved to the bullpen over the weekend after exceeding expectations in six starts, even more important. Because Strahm went from relieving in spring training to starting the first five weeks back to relieving, he is not yet on a normal reliever's routine. The Phillies will not pitch him in back-to-back games. They feel comfortable now using him two to three times per week, Thomson said Wednesday, depending on the number of pitches thrown.
• Andrew Bellatti was reinstated from the injured list as the corresponding move to Alvarado's IL placement. Bellatti missed three weeks with triceps tendinitis after appearing 10 times in the Phillies' first 20 games.
• Kyle Schwarber was back in the lineup and in left field Wednesday, the day after exiting with a left foot contusion. He fouled a ball off his left foot in the sixth inning Tuesday and was pulled to begin the next half-inning. Thomson said Schwarber came out of a pregame checkup OK and would be monitored closely during batting practice.