Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was in Puerto Rico on Wednesday scouting veteran right-hander Javier Vazquez, who was pitching for the Criollos de Caguas.
The Nationals, who were reported to have scouted Vazquez earlier this winter, are looking for pitching depth and it sounds as though Vazquez has been impressive, despite retiring after the 2011 season. A one-time major league All-Star, Vazquez last pitched in the major leagues for the Marlins, where he had a 3.69 ERA and 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 192 2/3 innings of work.
The general manager of Criollos de Caguas, Alex Cora, is a former Nationals infielder. He’s also been tweeting about Vazquez’s performances and noted that the 36-year-old hit 95 mph on his 83rd pitch of the night on Wednesday.
According to the Criollos de Caguas’ official twitter account, Vazquez pitched seven innings and allowed one run on six hits (one a home run) with one walk and 10 strikeouts.
ESPN.com reported that interest in Vazquez has been high, including at least 15 of the 30 major league teams, but “does not plan to sign with a club until after the World Baseball Classic in March and will only consider pitching for a contender.” The Mets, Red Sox, Rays and Royals have all joined the Nationals in scouting him, according to various reports.
As for the Nationals, their rotation is seemingly full with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Dan Haren. But they have been seeking depth for the upper minor leagues to serve as insurance for that strong rotation. Presumably, the Nationals would be interested in signing Vazquez to a minor league deal, perhaps with an out clause written into it.
“He looked great, in very good shape,” Rizzo told El Nuevo Dia.
It’s obvious, however, that the Nationals are not alone in their interest in Vazquez.