Javier Vazquez hoping physical therapist can help him find lost velocity

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Earlier this week I wrote about how Javier Vazquez’s significant drop in velocity this season makes him far from a sure thing to bounce back in 2011 simply because he was leaving New York and returning to the National League.

Vazquez apparently feels the same way, because Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post reports that “he’s not sure why his fastball velocity was down” and “is working with a physical therapist” in an attempt to find the lost miles per hour.

Here’s what Vazquez had to say about his average fastball declining from 91.1 mph in 2009 to 88.7 mph this season:

It’s a fact that I had a really tough year last year. I guess I can say that I don’t know what happened to my velocity. I guess I’m at a point in my career now, I’m 34, with a lot of innings in my arm. I want to start working with a physical therapist to do exercises and stretching. I’m going to start doing that as part of my off-season and in-season [program].

Capozzi notes that Vazquez has thrown the second-most innings of any pitcher since 2000 and he certainly wouldn’t be the first pitcher to lose significant velocity in his mid-30s, so while a pre-signing MRI exam reportedly revealed no major issues the Marlins are definitely taking a risk with his one-year, $7 million deal.

On the other hand Vazquez is one season removed from a Cy Young-caliber year with the Braves and smartly noted that the Marlins’ ballpark should play to his strengths, saying: “I’m a fly-ball pitcher and [Atlanta’s] ballpark helped me a lot. Hopefully it’s going to be the same in Miami.”

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.