Surging Felipe Vazquez unavailable Tuesday, leading to Pirates' committee closer
After pitching each of the previous three days, Felipe Vazquez was deemed unavailable to the Pirates for Tuesday night’s game.
So who was manager Clint Hurdle intending to turn to in a save situation? He wasn’t going to – to use his own parlance – “overcook” considering it.
“Sometimes you spend so much time and preparation, and then the game starts and it all breaks loose,” Hurdle said before Tuesday’s game against the Washington Nationals. “And sometimes that’s kind of comforting because some decisions are eliminated or made for you. If a starter gets knocked out in the first or second inning, now the whole complexion of the game changes.
“That what makes it interesting and that’s when you find more about yourself and your comfort zone and about your players and how they adapt and overcome, as well.”
Kyle Crick (11 consecutive scoreless appearances) is the top candidate as the closer-for-a-day, though Hurdle suggested that a spate of tough lefties up in the ninth inning could, in theory, compel him to turn to lefthander Steven Brault. Hurdle mentioned how he recently turned to Tyler Glasnow in a high-leverage eighth-inning role, for example.
Hurdle pointed out the mental aspect of pitching the ninth, and he complimented Vazquez for bouncing back from adversity this season to make the National League All-star roster .
After allowing 12 baserunners and two home runs in seven spring-training innings, Vazquez imploded on opening day, allowing four runs in 2/3 of an inning. He recovered from that nicely – 16 of his next 17 outings were scoreless – before a stretch of blown saves in three consecutive late-May appearances.
But, again, Vazquez bounced back: he has been scored upon just once in his last 15 outings (including the past 11 in a row) while converting each of his last nine save chances.
“I just appreciated the way he was able to pull back, reassess, honestly self evaluate and get a program back in place he thought can work,” Hurdle said, “to start to incrementally work his way back one thing at a time and sharpen up a bit. I really appreciated the way he went about it and the fight he showed in getting back.”