Alvarez & Arias -- Artists In the Making?

It's hard to think of Mario Alvarez without bringing in Marlon Arias. I mean, they're so much alike in so many ways. Start with the similar names- same initials. They're both Dominicans, both about the same age- Mario turned 22 in March, Marlon will do the same in September. They're both in the Columbis rotation, the third straight year they've been teammates.

Oh, there's differences- Mario's righthanded while Marlon's a leftie for one thing. And at 6-3, Marlon's three inches taller. Still, they resemble each other in their pitching a great deal. Each has the kind of arm that managers and coaches wax poetic over yet each is wildly inconsistent . You just never know what you're going to see when one goes to the mound.

Right now, Arias is doing better; he's 3-3, 4.66 while Alvarez is 1-4, 6.60. Hardly thrilling, yet the strikeouts show you how either can dominate when he's on his game- Marlon has 50 in 38.2 innings, Mario has racked up 43 in 36.

It was the same last year at Ogden when Arias K'd 73 in 70.2 innings , had a 4-4 record but a 5.48 ERA. Alvarez knocked off 53 in 55.2 , yet finished 3-3, 6.14. Clearly, it's a lightswitch world for these guys, off-on, off-on. As Moma Rose sang, "Either you got it or you don't".

You can't blame coaches for working hard to pull out the potential that's obviously there but, oh, the agony of trying to get them to show it on a more-or-less regular basis. They'll throw heat past batters one inning, only to either walk everybody but the groundskeepers or be torched by basehits, the next. Maddening.

There's been plenty of examples of this in the system before. Remember Juan Guzman? He started out that way and wound up a pretty good major league pitcher. Of course, he did his big league work with the Blue Jays for the Dodgers traded him away before he got that good.

On the other hand, there was Melido Dotel. Now, there was a guy who could record 100 on the gun- did it lots of times. However, every inning was a torture right out of the middle ages- deep counts, bases on balls, lollypop pitches eased over the plate. They could make a reality show out of his adventures in pitching. He was finally let go, other clubs grabbed him, eager to turn him into a Nolan Ryan but he never came close.

So, you just don't know. The hope is that the maturation process will see them smooth out and start tapping into that well of talent. But command on the mound is a talent of its own. Those that acquire it usually succeed; those that don't wind up working in a bodaga someplace regardless of how hard they throw.

Pitching for a living is like painting. Anybody can grab a brush and put something on a canvas but how many masterpieces do you run across ? Not that the Dodgers expect either Alvarez or Arias to become Rembrandt. They would like something better than a velveteen Elvis with a tear, though.

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