Esmerling Vasquez is the Twins’ 26th man. Earlier this week, the team added him to the lengthy list of non-roster invitees when he cleared waivers and made room for outfielder Darin Mastroianni. He may be a last minute addition to the non-roster list, but Puckett’s Pond is not going to let any Non-roster guy go unprofiled.
Vasquez, a 29 year old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, will sport jersey number 59 starting tomorrow, the day that pitchers and catchers officially report to camp. Though he was technically acquired before the 2011 season ended, Vasquez has yet to throw a pitch for the Twins, so this will be his first official Minnesota audition.
Vasquez is another pitcher in the mold of Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn. He has a potent fastball that averages 93.7 mph, but you can never tell whether it will end up in the strike zone or not. During his MLB career, Vasquez has a walk rate of 5.3 batters per nine innings. In 2010, that rate ballooned to an alarming 6.4 BB/9. He managed to bring it down to an almost-respectable 3.9 last year, but his strikeout rate also fell from 9.2 to 5.9 per nine. In short, he’s the type of pitcher who will make batters miss when he’s at his best, but he’ll do quite a bit of missing of his own when he’s not. He posted his lowest career ERA last year at 4.15, but the Diamondbacks sent him down in June and never called him back up.
Also last Jume, Vasquez was suspended three games for throwing at Nationals hitter Danny Espinosa. Coincidentally, Washington pitcher Jason Marquis, who was later traded to Arizona, and who is now Vasquez’s teammate with the Twins, was also suspended for plunking a batter in that game. Hopefully, these two don’t hold any grudges from that game and won’t make a habit of throwing at opposing hitters this year (unless they really deserve it; c’mon, admit it: you like seeing that every once in a while to ease the boredom!). Before that incident, his most dubious claim to fame was the walk-off balk he allowed in a 2010 game. The balk allowed former Twin Casey Blake to score, and it put the Dodgers over the top in a 5-4 D-Back loss.
If you do not remember that incident, you might remember Vasquez from his brief appearance against the Twins last May 21st. Vasquez came on in the seventh inning of that game in Arizona. He started by walking Ben Revere but got a break when Denard Span lined into a double play. He then struck out Trevor Plouffe to complete the frame. It lowered his ERA to 2.65 at the time. The Twins were leading at the time, but the horrid Minnesota bullpen allowed six runs in the eighth to drop the game. Perhaps Bill Smith noticed the contrast between Vasquez’s efficient outing and the pathetic effort by his own relievers and made a mental note to go after Vasquez that night.
Being dropped from the roster did not improve Vasquez’s chances to make the team. The Twins locker room will be crowded even before the position players report to camp, as there are 33 pitchers in camp with the Twins this year (22 on the 40 man roster and 11 non-roster invitees). His fastball is intriguing, but his lack of control could get old very quickly. Plus, his removal from the roster and the release of Jim Hoey may indicate that Terry Ryan does not have as much patience for Wild Thing pitchers as Smith did.
If you missed the first 25 installments of Puckett’s Pond’s epic non-roster invitee series, feel free to peruse them here. Better read quickly, because Spring Training starts tomorrow, and you’ll want to know who’s who in the Twins camp.