August 26, 2016
NEW YORK – Jorge Alfaro isn’t expected to get off the bench on Friday night at Citi Field, aside from a possible at-bat late in a one-sided game, manager Pete Mackanin said. Backup catchers generally aren’t used as pinch hitters.
After arriving in the big league clubhouse for the first time in his life on Friday, the 23-year-old Alfaro will pack his things following tonight’s game and return to the minor league clubhouse at FirstEnergy Stadium on Saturday.
So he’s here, but he’s a long shot to play and he will be back at Double-A Reading tomorrow. Despite all of that, you would have needed to borrow strong piece of machinery from one of the chop shops outside Citi Field in order to pry the ear-to-ear smile off Alfaro’s face on Friday afternoon.
The Colombian-born catcher, who arrived in the Cole Hamels' trade 13 months ago, and who is briefly replacing fellow 2008 World Series alum Carlos Ruiz on the active roster on Friday, became a major leaguer for the first time when he walked into the eight-year-old ballpark in Flushing on Friday.
“It feels like a dream, like I’m dreaming right now,” Alfaro said before taking batting practice prior to the Phillies game against the New York Mets. “When I was young, when I was a kid, this was a big dream. Where I come from, there’s not a lot of baseball. You (wonder) if it’s possible. I mean that’s why we work hard. When they told me the good news, I couldn’t believe it. When I walked into the clubhouse doors, I felt really great. Like God had given me a blessing. It feels good.”
Alfaro will return to Double-A Reading on Saturday and stay with Fightins through their playoff run in the Eastern League for the next two weeks. Former Dodgers veteran A.J. Ellis, acquired in Friday’s Ruiz trade, will take over the role as sage backup catcher on the Phillies roster. But Alfaro is a favorite to return to the big leagues at some point next month, as rosters expand and he’s the only other catcher on the 40-man roster.
The big-armed, big bat Alfaro has hit 13 home runs in 90 games with Reading, a number that’s currently dwarfed by a couple of his Fightins teammates.
Overall he’s hitting .279 with a .763 OPS, 95 strikeouts, and 21 walks in 403 plate appearances. He’s also thrown out 31 of 70 would-be base stealers (44 percent) in the Eastern League.
“I believe in myself that I can play,” Alfaro said when asked how close he felt he was to earning a full-time role in the major leagues. “I’m trying to get better every day and try to be the best. That's what everyone is working hard for.”
I’m just enjoying the moment right now. Every minute, I’m trying to wake up. This is not a dream, this is reality.
On Thursday night in Reading, Alfaro was caught in a bad spot on the bases when he was hit directly in the face by an errant throw from New Hampshire’s second baseman while attempting to beat out an infield hit. Alfaro got the hit – but was also on the ground for a minute and sporting a nasty welt above his left eye.
He stayed in the game, but figured Reading manager Dusty Wathan was telling him he was resting the catcher the next night when he was called into the office postgame.
“He gave me the good news and I forgot about the hit, forgot about the eye, forgot everything,” Alfaro said. “I don’t know what to do. Cry? I don’t know. I was so happy about it.”
Even better: Alfaro’s parents, Jorge and Consuela, who have been in Reading for the last couple months with their son, were waiting outside the clubhouse.
“I was almost crying I was so happy,” he said.
The Alfaro family’s first trip to New York will be a brief one. The prospect who may very well be the Phillies catcher of the future will be a minor leaguer again on Saturday.
He didn’t seem to care very much about that small detail on Friday.
“I’m just enjoying the moment right now,” Alfaro said. “Every minute, I’m trying to wake up. This is not a dream, this is reality.”