A three-walk fourth revealed that the control problems are still there.
“He just kinda misfired,” said manager Ron Gardenhire after the 6-0 loss.
“He tried to get them to chase some pitches and they laid off some pretty decent pitches, close pitches, but ultimately he ends up walking in a run.”
Vasquez hit Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis with a pitch in the first inning, a harbinger for things to come that night.
“He made some pitches,” continued the manager, “got through it.”
The pitcher already has 12 walks and only eight strikeouts in his 14-inning career with the Twins.
A 9-6 record (2.78 ERA) in Rochester, where he had a 98-to-39 K/BB ration, merited a call-up in September, but it’s hard to see him sticking with the team next season.
True, there are still five open spots in the rotation next season and putting the Carl Pavano and Scott Baker situations aside (and assuming Nick Blackburn won’t be back) it’s a rat race to see which pitchers will earn major league starts next season.
Scott Diamond is the most likely candidate to get a spot next season.
His second-half numbers have dropped off a bit (since being ejected in Texas he’s only pitched seven innings one time in three starts), but his early numbers indicate he should have a spot in the rotation for years to come.
For Sam Deduno it’s all about controlling that crazy fastball. If he can keep the walk rate low, that’s a dangerous pitch. If not, he’ll be in Triple-A next season.
Cole De Vries had a string of three straight wins going before snapping a rib in his last start. The local kid is likely to get a long look during spring training next season.
After that it’s hard to tell.
P.J. Walters showed some promise early in the year but got lit up in his last two starts since coming off the disabled list, and Liam Hendriks has yet to earn a win in the major leagues.
That left the door open for Vasquez, but it’s hard to see him stepping through it.
The Dominican pitcher topped 100 pitches in the sixth inning of Friday’s contest and didn’t seem to have any control after the first. Toward the end of his outing, he actually bounced a pitch to Konerko.
Kyle Waldrop replaced him with two outs in the sixth after A.J. Pierzynski hit a single off of him and he walked Dayan Viciedo.
“Today I feel much better,” said Vasquez. “I was more confident in my stuff today and I stayed more aggressive and used more pitches.”
“He used all of his pitches: his breaking ball and his changeup and his fastball and got through six innings.
“That was way better than last time and improvement’s what we’re looking for.”
There certainly has been some improvement, but it’s hard to see Vasquez cracking the Opening Day roster next year.
All quotes were obtained first-hand.
Tom Schreier writes a weekly column for TheFanManifesto.com.
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