It’s just not happening for Javier Vazquez.
In allowing six runs over four innings Sunday in a loss to the Nationals, his ERA jumped to 7.55. Even when Vazquez has struggled in the past, it’s usually come with a respectable or better WHIP. This year, he’s at 1.91. He’s struck out just 20 batters and walked 24 in 39 1/3 innings. He’s given the Marlins all of one quality start in eight tries, and he did the absolute minimum that day, surrendering three runs over six innings in a loss to the Rockies.
Things seem hopeless at this point. He hasn’t regained any of the miles per hour he lost off his fastball last summer, and in trying to throw harder, he’s lost command. Since hitters no longer worry about his fastball, he’s not getting any swings and misses with his slider or curve. All signs point to him being done unless he finds some of that velocity he lost.
Unfortunately, the Marlins are short on replacements. They were feeling pretty good about their pitching depth entering the spring, but their sixth and seventh starters, Alex Sanabia and Sean West, are shut down with elbow injuries.
I’m kind of surprised they didn’t try stretching Burke Badenhop out after sending him down to Triple-A New Orleans, but he’s back in the major league pen now. They have stretched out reliever Jay Buente, and he’s been a nice surprise with a 1.91 ERA and a 32/6 K/BB ratio in five starts for New Orleans. He’d probably be the choice if Vazquez gets bumped this week. Tom Koehler is their other option.
Kevin Millwood is still out there, and while he didn’t show much of a fastball in his stint in the Yankees system, he might be able to finesse his way to being an average fifth starter for the Marlins. Giving him a look wouldn’t be a bad idea.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.