NEW YORK – Andrew Vasquez’s slider has been his money pitch throughout his minor league career. The lefthanded reliever entered the season with a strikeout rate of 13.4 per nine innings in the four years he’s toiled in the Twins farm system.
The combination of his delivery and the sharp-breaking pitch has dominated hitters on those levels.
“It’s his delivery and arm action, and it all kinds of works together in a way that you can see why hitters maybe don’t react to his stuff in a comfortable way; so he definitely spins the ball well,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think it plays or something that can play well to both sides of the plate, righthanded hitters and lefthanded hitters.”
It didn’t play that well on Wednesday, after Vasquez was called up from Class AAA Rochester and thrown right into the fire.
He was brought into the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning on Wednesday. He faced three batters, hitting Brandon Nimmo before walking Pete Alonso and Robinson Cano. Each time a run was forced in. The Mets took a 6-1 lead.
The majors are Vasquez’s final frontier. He made his debut last season, giving up three earned runs in five innings while walking two and striking out seven. He made it to major league training camp this season but was cut on March 8.
Vasquez was called up to replace righthander Chase De Jong, who was sent down after giving up four runs and throwing 46 pitches in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s 14-8 victory. The Red Wings were in Syracuse on Tuesday, so Vasquez hopped on a plane Wednesday for the short flight to the Big Apple.
The 25-year-old Californian said he learned a lot when he made his debut last season and listened to advice that the veteran relievers offered him. He also has worked on his fastball command after he was cut from camp, knowing it will help his slider.
But one of the takeaways from last season was that even on the major league level the slider plays.
“I got a lot of [positive] reinforcement,” Vasquez said. “I think I felt really good with it, and it was the same slider. So that was a nice way to build some confidence and trust in it. I felt pretty good in spring training with it as well. Just keep rolling.”
Garver gets first crack
Mitch Garver entered Wednesday batting .583 during the first six games of the road trip. He hit his first two home runs of the season on Tuesday.
For that, he got a chance to start on Wednesday. He’s the first of the trio of Twins catchers to start in consecutive games behind home plate.
“All of our guys are going out there and catching well,” Baldelli said. “And they are also going out there and are swinging the bat. Garver hasn’t had any kind of regular consistent at-bats or schedule at all this year. With the way he went out there [Tuesday] I thought it was a nice day to run him back out there back to back.”
Garver and Jason Castro have each started four games behind the plate. Willians Astudillo has started twice as catcher and has started at third base twice and first base once.
Monitoring the weather
Another day offered no assurances that all three games of the Twins-Tigers series will be played. Snow is expected to continue into Friday, and cold weather is expected to remain through the weekend.
“Like everything else that’s happened so far this year, we will just react to it and when they say we can play, we’ll be ready to play,” Baldelli said. “We’ve spent a lot of time kind of mapping out different scenarios and what could happen. Do I feel confident in what is going to happen? Not really, but that’s OK. I don’t know. I have no idea.”