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Many of you will remember Anthony Vasquez as the poor minor league pitcher the Mariners trotted out to the mound over and over again to get shelled during the 2011 season. The Mariners were out of pitchers as the season reached mid-August and dipped into their Class AAA ranks for an 18th-round college draft pick from a couple of seasons earlier who had begun the year a longshot to leave AA.
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I know that I felt sorry for Vasquez as that season ended and he owned the dubious distinction of being the first MLB pitcher to give up as many home runs in a season as he managed to notch strikeouts (for pitchers with at least 10 homers allowed). Vasquez gave up 13 homers and struck out 13. Yes, he had it rough.
But wow, that was the easy stuff compared to 2012. You can read all about it here in my story for Saturday’s paper, after I caught up to Vasquez earlier today as he walked around the Peoria Sports Complex during a minor league mini-camp. Vasquez is OK now, but back in November, it was touch-and-go.
The shoulder injury he suffered partway through a mediocre AAA campaign seemed bad enough. Until Vasquez nearly died.
He was here in Peoria in late-November, rehabbing the shoulder, when the headaches, dizziness and vision issues he’d been going through for a period of time finally caught up to him and made it too difficult to throw. He was sent to the team’s doctor in Arizona and an MRI revealed a blood vessel had burst in his brain.
Another 24 hours, things might have been too late. Fortunately for him, they have a place called the Barrow Neurological Institute here in nearby Phoenix, part of the St. Joseph’s Hospital. Vasquez was rushed there and underwent 5 1/2 hours of surgery under the care of world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Spetzler. Today, Spetzler told me that another day more and Vasquez would not have been so lucky.
I asked him whether such a delay could have cost him his vision, since there was bleeding on the part of his brain that impacts this.
“Yeah, or his life,” Spetzler replied.
Vasquez isn’t sitting around moping about his fate. He feels fortunate to stil be alive. Lucky to have been here in the Phoenix area when the blood vessel burst and not in some remote town without the kind of medical care he received so close by here.
He spent the winter sitting at home in San Antonio, TX resting up. He’s got a long road ahead this spring, having already pushed back his rehab from the shoulder injury by two months.
Now, he’s back rehabbing again. When he’ll be cleared to throw, nobody exactly knows. But he’s willing to wait, figuring he might need time in extended spring training once minor league camp wraps up. He has no idea what level of the minors he’ll be assigned to, or how far away he is from ever getting a secod chance at his MLB dream.
But he doesn’t seem to care. He’s counting his blessings daily and grateful to have been given the chances he’s already had in baseball, including that 2011 season with the Mariners.
“If me giving up a few home runs in the big leagues is going to be the worst of my trials,” he said, “then I guess I have it pretty good.”
So true indeed.
He knows better now. And he doesn’t run from the trials and tribulations he figures have made him stronger.
“Trials are good, they help you,” Vasquez said. “I really look at it that way.”
Help him to appreciate where he’s been, what he has and what there is to look forward to. No matter where he winds up in baseball, that’s the mindset Vasquez says he’ll continue to carry from here on out.