PHOENIX -- The excitement of the Futures Game fizzled quickly last year for Blue Jays prospect Henderson Alvarez, who served up a crushing three-run homer to Hank Conger -- now a Major League catcher with the Angels.
Alvarez made certain that this time around would be different.
Pitching again for the World Team in Sunday's XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field, Alvarez pitched a scoreless sixth inning, recording two groundouts and allowing one hit.
"I'm really happy the organization thought enough of me to send me here again," Alvarez said through an interpreter before the game. "Everybody wants to be in an All-Star Game, and this is a special event."
It was certainly a better experience than last year for Alvarez, who allowed three runs -- all of them unearned -- in one inning at Angel Stadium, courtesy Conger's game-changing homer.
Sunday offered a chance for redemption, which Alvarez made certain to seize. It also gave him an opportunity to reunite with friends and countrymen at one of Major League Baseball's showcase events. Snapping pictures with fellow Venezuelans Jose Altuve of the Astros, Gregory Infante of the White Sox, Francisco Martinez of the Tigers and Martin Perez of the Rangers on Sunday afternoon, Alvarez soaked in all the Futures Game had to offer -- for a second time.
"I'm just so happy to be here," said Alvarez, Toronto's only representative in the game. "I'm ready to pitch and to demonstrate what kind of player I am. I'm really looking forward to the future when I make it to the big leagues."
That may be sooner rather than later. After breaking out as a prospect in 2009, Alvarez stumbled a bit last season but has since added zip to his fastball, now touching triple digits on occasion. Since a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire early this season, Alvarez has posted a 3.25 ERA in 55 1/3 innings, striking out 39 batters and walking 13. One of the younger players in the Eastern League at 21 years old, he could reach the Blue Jays at some point next season.
"I'm doing my job," Alvarez said. "I'm just trying to do the best I can to demonstrate that I can be a big league pitcher."