The last time Henderson Alvarez experienced stiffness in his right elbow, it turned out to be nothing serious, and he tossed a shutout the next time he took the mound.
That was last year. The Marlins can only hope the result is the same this time with their All-Star pitcher.
According to multiple sources, Alvarez was to have a magnetic resonance imaging test on his throwing arm Monday after taking the loss in the Marlins’ 8-5 setback to the Tampa Bay Rays.
According to mlb.com, Alvarez was also to have his right shoulder checked out Monday.
It was yet more disturbing news for the Marlins, who not only lost for the fifth time in six games on Sunday, but lost two of their bench players — catcher Jeff Mathis and infielder Don Kelly — to broken fingers, in the process.
While the Marlins could possibly withstand the losses of Mathis and Kelly, who will be headed to the disabled list, losing Alvarez for any length of time would represent a significant blow.
With Jose Fernandez not due back until midsummer from Tommy John surgery, Alvarez was the one pitcher in the rotation the Marlins could count on to deliver wins in the meantime.
Now his status is uncertain.
“I didn’t feel well [Sunday],” Alvarez said through a translator after giving up four runs in five innings. “I didn’t feel comfortable. I just didn’t have it.”
Alvarez’s fastball velocity was down noticeably. Instead of the mid-90s fastball he is usually capable of throwing, his fastball readings on Sunday were in the 89- to 91-mph range.
“He was up in the zone, missing spots,” manager Mike Redmond said. “And his ‘velo’ was down. Just wasn’t his day.”
Alvarez gave up a run in the first inning and escaped damage in the fourth inning after the Rays put runners on second and third with no outs. But Alvarez wasn’t as fortunate in the fifth, surrendering a three-run homer to David DeJesus on an 0-2 pitch.
“It was a sinker that didn’t sink,” Alvarez said. “It just kind of stayed in the middle, and he put a good swing on it.”
When talking to reporters afterward, neither Alvarez nor Redmond made any mention of possible elbow issues. But a couple of the pitcher’s teammates gave him consoling pats as he walked out of the clubhouse on his own, before the rest of the team left on a 10-game road trip.
It has been that kind of week for the Marlins, with Sunday’s setback culminating a deflating start to the season.
In addition to scraping out just one extra-inning victory in six games against two teams that are in rebuilding phases, the Marlins lost at least two players — and perhaps a third — to injuries.
Mathis and Kelly each had the ring finger on his right hand broken; Mathis on a hard foul ball that slammed into his fist and Kelly on a routine grounder that clipped his finger.
“Tough day all around,” Mathis said.
The Marlins are expected to place both players on the disabled list and call up catcher J.T. Realmuto and infielder Reid Brignac from the minors on Monday before opening their trip in Atlanta.
“Hopefully, we’re a better road team than we’ve been a home team,” manager Mike Redmond said. “We haven’t played like I know we’re capable of playing. That’s not us.”
Almost nothing went right for the Marlins on Sunday.
Kelly was injured while fielding a ground ball, and Mathis came out with a broken finger after taking a foul ball off his right hand.
It was slow going offensively for the Marlins yet again on Sunday until the bats woke up late. By then, though, it was too late.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who took over for Mathis in the eighth, belted the Marlins’ first home run of the season in the ninth, narrowly averting a club-record sixth consecutive game to start a season without a home run.
“I saw some signs of life offensively at the end of the game,” Redmond said. “Hopefully, we’ll relax and start playing the way we’re capable of playing. We’ve got some guys pressing. You can see it, trying to do way too much.”