ATLANTA (AP) — Francisco Álvarez was riding with his parents and another friend from Syracuse to Miami on Thursday when Major League Baseball’s top prospect got the news that he had been called up to the big leagues.
They pulled the car over so they could celebrate the achievement of the 20-year-old Álvarez. A catcher, he was in the New York Mets’ lineup Friday night in Atlanta batting seventh as designated hitter.
“I was excited,” he said through a translator. “We stopped the car. I gave a hug to my mom and dad who were also in there. I had another friend and they started crying.”
The Mets wasted no time putting Álvarez in the heat of their pennant race with the defending World Series champion Braves. New York began Friday with a one-game lead in the NL East and hoped Álvarez, a right-handed hitter, could handle Braves ace Max Fried, a lefty.
There are six games left in the regular season, and the Mets believe Álvarez, a native of Venezuela, who was MLB Pipeline's No. 1 prospect, could make their postseason roster.
“I always had the hope that I’d get called up because I know I can come out here and help the team win, but I never lost hope,” Álvarez said. “I think that’s the best thing about it.”
Álvarez overcame a right ankle injury that sidelined him for three weeks at Triple-A Syracuse before finally getting healthy earlier this month.
“He’s felt more comfort,” Mets general manager Billy Eppler said. “He hasn’t felt that kind of pressure that I think he was feeling when he would kind of compress his lower ab in his swing. That freed him up to be the best version of himself.”
He batted .260 with 27 home runs, 78 RBIs and an .885 OPS combined at Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A this season.
Mets manager Buck Showalter was noncommittal on Álvarez’s role beyond Friday.
“He’s going to DH tonight, and we’ll see what tomorrow brings,” Showalter said. “This is about this game, this nine innings. We’re trying to put our best foot forward. We’ll see where we are tomorrow.”
The Mets put Darin Ruf on the 10-day injured list with a sore neck in a corresponding move.