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Off-Field Issues Behind Him, Alvarado Wants The Ball In 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE (WDAE) -- He missed significant time dealing with a family illness in Venezuela, then suffered a pair of injuries to turn 2019 into a lost year, but reliever Jose Alvarado is ready to show he is back to form in 2020.

Alvarado was a part of the group that threw their first bullpen sessions of the spring Friday at Charlotte Sports Park, drawing praise from manager Kevin Cash for how he looks early in camp. The team has helped the left-hander in being able to focus solely on baseball, using its influence to help get Alvarado's parents and wife from Venezuela and settled into the United States.

"We have to do a good job as an organization, especially as a staff that’s around him closely, and I feel we have to continue to find ways to help him through any of these challenges," Cash said. "These players, there are differences amongst a lot of them, and José has had challenges, and it’s up to us to put him in the right environment to where we can get the best out of him for himself."

It's created an ease for the pitcher that he might not have had in years past.

"[I want to] thank everyone in the front office for getting the help I need for me and my family," Alvarado said. I’m very excited that my family’s here. It means I can focus on baseball. It’s very important to have my family here. After my family, my team [is second-most important]. I have more focus here on my work."

And that focus is getting back to his old role of taking the ball and trying to get the final three outs of the game to seal a win, a situation he wants to return to.

"I like [the pressure of pitching in the 9th inning]," Alvarado said. "For me, I don’t think about (the closer role) too much. If Cash needs me in the 9th inning, I’m ready."

HELLICKSON DECIDES TO HANG THEM UP: Former Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson's ten year career in the big leagues has come to an end.

Hellickson told the Des Moines Register Friday that he had suffered a setback with his shoulder that limited him to just nine apperaances in 2019 that would require surgery and rehab, and decided to retire instead.

The 32-year-old made his Major League debut in 2010 with Tampa Bay, making four starts before coming up for good in 2011. Hellickson won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 2011, and received a Gold Glove in 2012.

The Rays traded Hellickson following the 2014 season to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for outfielders Justin Williams and Andrew Velazquez. Both players would make the big leagues with Tampa Bay, and Williams was a part of the trade that brought Tommy Pham to the team at the trade deadline in 2018. He went on to play with the Phillies, starting a pair of Opening Days in 2016 and 2017, and the Baltimore Orioles before finishing his career in Washington.

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