Thursday, April 15, 2010

Open Season On Javier Vazquez

Javier Vazquez's second stint with the New York Yankees has begun just like the first one ended: as a nightmare.

Vazquez was hammered by the Rays in his first outing of the season.

His second start was slightly better, but still well below par by any standard.

Vazquez allowed four runs on six hits and two walk in 5-1/3 innings Wednesday as the Yankees lost to the Angels 5-3 at Yankee Stadium. Vazquez is now 0-2 with a 9.82 ERA in his two starts this season.

Now two starts into the season is hardly enough to draw any sweeping conclusions about a pitcher, but Vazquez is not just another pitcher, is he?

In his first tour with the Yankees in 2004, Vazquez went 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA. The numbers alone aren't terrible, but they don't tell the full story. In 10 starts in August and September, he went 2-4 with a 6.75 ERA. Then to top it off, he allowed two homers, including Johnny Damon's grand slam, in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

He knows what New York is all about ... and Yankees fans know what he's all about. That means there isn't much leeway for the righthander. He needs to perform well, and needs to do it immediately.

Instead, we have seen a pitcher incapable of maintain and repeating his delivery and release point.

Associated Press
Wednesday he escaped a shaky first, but got hammered in the third, allowing a leadoff single to Brandon Wood, and RBI single to Erick Aybar and an RBI double by Bobby Abreu to make it 2-0.

After Nick Swisher got a run back in the fifth with an RBI triple, Vazquez came undone in the sixth, allowing a leadoff double to Torii Hunter and a one-out RBI double to Kendry Morales. That was it for Vazquez, and he left to boos. Morales came around to score on Maicer Izturis' single off Alfredo Aceves.

The fans clearly have not forgotten what happened in 2004 ... and they won't until Vazquez starts winning.

But here's the thing that's puzzling: For the past 10 seasons, Vazquez has been one of the most consistent and durable pitchers in the majors. He's pitched 200 innings in all but one season -- 2004 when he pitched 198 for the Yankees. All of that speaks to a pitcher who is mechanically sound and able to easily repeat his delivery.

But in  New York that hasn't happened. In 2004, it turns out Vazquez had a sore shoulder -- not that Vazquez has ever used that as an excuse.

So what's going on now? Is Vazquez hurting? Is the pressure of getting off to a fast start proving to be more stress than he can handle? Does he just need a win to get on track? ... Or is Javier Vazquez simply a player who just can't make it in New York?

Again, it's not fair to draw conclusions off two start, but all those questions will be answered in time.

Just hope Vazquez can put it together and perform as we've seen him perform with other teams.

If he can't, well, it will be open season on the Vazquez and boos will continue to rain down.

Up Next
Tonight vs. Angels, 7:05 p.m., Local TV (check your listings), MLB
Scott Kazmir vs. Phil Hughes
Both pitchers are making their first starts of the year, but the Yankees are quite familiar with Kazmir, who was traded from the Rays to the Angels last season. The lefthander has been quite tough on the Yankees in the past.

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