Veteran SF Giants reliever begins rehab assignment with the River Cats

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San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

The 2022 campaign has not gone as expected for many SF Giants relievers. But, after a stint on the injured list, one is getting ready to return for the second half.

Veteran SF Giants reliever begins rehab assignment with the River Cats

José Álvarez was placed on the injured list on June 21 with lower back tightness and it appears that his stay on the shelf will be brief. The 10-year veteran was assigned to Triple-A for a rehab assignment on Wednesday.

The lefty reliever has allowed one run in two appearances so far with the Sacramento River Cats. His stint on the injured list feels oddly similar to Jake McGee's time on the injured list at the end of May.

McGee struggled to the tune of a 9.58 ERA in his first 11 appearances of the season. The Giants had trouble finding opportunities for the 35-year-old reliever to pitch due to ineffectiveness before he landed on the injured list with a back ailment.

However, he was not on the shelf for long and when he returned, the mid-90's fastball that he had for much of his career had returned as well. McGee has yielded four earned runs in 11 appearances since sustaining the injury. Three of those runs were scored in a tough blown save against the Atlanta Braves on June 22.

Álvarez's trip on the injured list had a similar feel. The craft lefty got off to a good start, allowing just one earned run through his first nine appearances of the season. However, he hit a rough patch where he allowed eight earned runs over the next 12 appearances.

San Francisco is counting on the 10-year veteran to be a key cog in the bullpen, especially after he posted a 2.37 ERA in 67 appearances for the Giants in 2021. Similar to many Giants relievers from last year, Álvarez has experienced considerable regression in 2022.

Unlike McGee, Álvarez is not trying to regain a mid-90's fastball during his rehab assignment. The veteran reliever relies on keeping hitters off balance with a three-pitch mix that includes a sinker, slider, and a changeup.

Álvarez does not accumulate high strikeout total as he posted a 5.8 K/9 ratio in 2021. He thrives on the contact and avoiding the sweet spot of the bat. He brings a different approach to the mound than many hard-throwing relievers, and the Giants need him to regain his effectiveness if the bullpen is going to be a strength in the second half.