Javier Vazquez has not thrown the ball hard all season. His fastball velocity has been steadily dropping the past four years, and on his best days Vazquez now throws his fastball at 89-90 mph. He might — might — touch 91.
“I think it’s back to where it was when he was winning a lot of games,” Joe Girardi said. “This has only become an issue because he stopped winning games. He won like eight out of ten starts (actually eight of 11 decisions) and his velocity was 88 to 89. At times it was 85 to 86. Then when he lost a couple, people started talking about his velocity. You can make something out of nothing, but his velocity had not been 91 to 93 all year long. To me, to get caught up in that is kind of silly. The bottom line is you have to make your pitches. You have to locate. If you do that at 82 (mph) you’re going to get people out.”
Yesterday, Vazquez was saying the same thing. He’s had some games when his velocity dipped into the mid-80s — his start in Texas for example — and those numbers bothered him, but he was back up to 88-90 in his most recent start. Vazquez has learned to work with the diminished velocity. What’s bothered him lately has been command.
“I was pitching well,” he said. “I was locating well. That’s why I say that the important thing is to locate. Obviously it would be great to be throwing harder, but the bottom line is I was locating well back then. That’s what I was doing… Those couple of games I was really low, that was my main concern was it not going lower, but it came back. I was 88 to 90 last time out, and the arm felt good. If I’m locating, I’ve got the other pitches to work with.”
• Girardi said every indication was that Alex Rodriguez would be ready to play yesterday. “His batting practice sessions, he went at it pretty hard those two days in the cage and said he felt tremendous,” Girardi said. “He felt explosion and everything. It’s just hard to say (what caused the setback), and it’s something we’re going to have to monitor and continue to go day-by-day.”
• Girard said it’s possible Rodriguez will not play in the upcoming series against Toronto, but he didn’t rule it out completely. “The turf is hard on him anyway,” Girardi said. “Maybe we get him as a DH one day or something.”
• Hard not to notice that the Yankees suddenly seem better equipped to handle left-handed starters. Austin Kearns and Marcus Thames loom large in these games. “I think our lineup is a little bit different with the people we’ve added,” Girardi said. “Getting a healthy Marcus back has helped as well. We were without him for about four weeks. He was a guy that we brought here to play against lefties. It definitely has increased our options.”
• Brett Gardner just has a regular day off. No injury or anything like that.
• Eduardo Nunez opened some eyes in spring training and will make his first major league start this afternoon. We saw a kid that was very talented,” Girardi said. “Liked his hands. Loved his arm, his range. He can run. He finds a way to put the bat on the ball. We believe that he can be an exciting player.”
• I’m not the only one who had a hard time getting here today. A lot of players were talking about the construction around the stadium that made getting to the park tough this morning. It was optional batting practice today, so guys were just kind of filtering in and out.
UPDATE, 12:31 p.m.: Mariners lineup
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 2B
Russell Branyan DH
Jose Lopez 3B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Casey Kotchman 1B
Josh Bard C
Michael Saunders LF
Josh Wilson SS
Associated Press photo of Vazquez