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SoxProspects News

July 24, 2009 at 8:30 AM

Q&A with Jose Vaquedano

A member of the Red Sox organization since June 2002, only six other current Sox have been in the system as long as Jose Vaquedano (Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, Manny Delcarmen, Dusty Brown, Kevin Youkilis, and Charlie Zink). Born in Honduras, Vaquedano’s family moved to Texas when he was young, and he played junior college ball in the Lone Star State at Vernon College before being drafted by the Sox in the 35th round of the 2002 Draft. Now in his eighth year as a Sox minor leaguer, Vaquedano has started, relieved, changed arm slots, played for seven different affiliates at five levels, while also pitching in the Arizona Fall League and the Puerto Rican Winter League. Chris Hatfield of SoxProspects.com got a chance to chat with Vaquedano in Pawtucket after he recently returned from pitching in the Triple-A All-Star Game in Portland, Oregon.

Chris Hatfield: You’ve got one of the longest tenures in the system. Over the time you’ve been with the Red Sox, how have things in the organization changed?
Jose Vaquedano: I think the main thing is the players that they draft. When I first got drafted, there really weren’t that many [Major League] prospects [in the system]. All we really had was Hanley Ramirez – but now they’re everywhere from Lowell to Pawtucket.

CH: So have you noticed that the teams you’ve been playing on are any better? Is it better to play with guys who are more talented?
JV: Yeah it is. It’s fun to win. If I were ever to get that chance to go up to Boston, I now have experience with winning.

CH: This season, you’ve really been able to put things together, making the Triple-A All-Star Game. Have you changed anything, or are things just clicking for you?
JV: I think it’s a little bit of both. One big part is that I’m getting lefties out this year. I’m throwing my changeup for strikes, working lefties in and out. I’m throwing a lot more strikes this year too.

CH: I mentioned that you got a chance to pitch in the Triple-A All-Star Game. What was it like to get named to the team and how did you hear that you had been selected?
JV: I was a late addition, so I heard about it two days before I went out there, but it was a great experience for me, and I learned a lot. It was my first All-Star Game, so I was very excited.

CH: In 2007, you changed your arm slot. What was it like switching your arm slot, changing your mechanics pretty much from step one, and how was that idea brought to you?
JV: It was two days before Spring Training was over. [Director of Player Development Mike] Hazen and [Minor League Pitching Coordinator] Ralph Truel brought me into their office and said they liked me and that “we still think we can get something out of you.” So they brought up dropping down, and I went along with it. My agent told me, “yeah, do it with your heart.” So I went out there and did it, and I got accustomed to it kind of quickly.

CH: Really? So you felt that it maybe “clicked” in that first year?
JV: Well, last year a little bit, then I got to Triple-A and had a little struggle here and there, but yeah, I feel real comfortable in that this year.

CH: Another change you’ve gone through coming up through the system is going from starting to the bullpen. How have you changed your approach to pitching, your routine, and how did you adjust to that change in general?
: As a reliever, you’ve got to come in there throwing strikes. And I do like being a reliever a lot better.

CH: For what reason?
: I don’t know. Just the thought of waiting four days to pitch. I was always thinking ahead (to my next start).

CH: So it’s knowing you could be needed at any moment?
JV: Right. It could be every day, so I don’t mind that.

CH: Coming up through the minors, what jump did you find to be the toughest?
JV: I’d say from High-A to Double-A. When I made that jump, I was dealing with a lot of adversity, like changing my arm-slot, trying to do something new every day. I was walking people and I wasn’t throwing strikes. When I got to Triple-A, I was a little more mature.

CH: Talk a bit about your approach to pitching. You’ve mentioned working the changeup to lefties, how else do you use your pitches, and what are you throwing right now?
JV: I’m throwing a sinker, a slider, and a changeup. I tend to work mostly middle-in to righties – I try to get the sinker in on their hands – and sliders away. To lefties, I throw pretty much every pitch, work in and out, changeups and sliders.

CH: Now you mentioned that your approach is something you’ve perfected this year?
: Yeah, I went to Puerto Rico, and I learned a lot of stuff over there, like how to pitch sidearm – I was tutored by Pedro Feliciano, the sidearm lefty from the Mets. He really helped me a lot. He taught me what side of the rubber to pitch from, some tricks that he does. Of course, I took it all in, because he’s been pitching in the big leagues for seven years.

CH: I was actually planning on asking you about your experience pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League. How was the experience different pitching in the Caribbean Leagues over the winter than it is pitching in the minors in the U.S.?
: It’s a lot different. Over there they want to win, so my job is to pretty much throw every day and get some righties out. Over here, in the minors, it’s not really about situational pitching, changing pitchers at the end of games like in the big leagues.

CH: We noticed that you did throw a TON over there; it seemed like you were pitching every other day. Do you mind having a heavy workload like that and does your arm hold up well? [NOTE: Jose tied for the PRWL lead with 24 appearances over 42 games before making 6 appearances in the PRWL post-season and 3 in the Caribbean Series.]
: My arm holds up well. Ever since I dropped down, I can pretty much throw every day. It’s not really sore the next day.

CH: You have pitched at seven different spots in the Sox’ farm system, due to franchises moving. Which place that you’ve pitched was your favorite?
JV: I’d say Portland. The fans, the city, it was real laid back, and the fans were awesome.

CH: Now, you were born in Honduras, not exactly a country that’s producing Major Leaguers left and right. What’s the baseball culture like there and how did you pick up baseball?
: Well I moved over here (to the U.S.) when I was 11. My stepdad got me into baseball here in the United States. There’s no baseball (in Honduras) – soccer’s the main thing. There’s another guy pitching for the Gwinnett Braves, Mariano Gomez, and we’re kind of battling to be one of the first ones up [to the Majors from Honduras]. He got signed out of Honduras because he’s from a bigger city where they play a little more baseball, but it’s nothing like the Dominican or Venezuela.
[NOTE: Just one player born in Honduras, Gerald Young, has played in the Majors.]

CH: So when you moved when you were 11, was that to San Antonio? (JV: Yes.) So that’s how you wound up at Vernon College? (JV: Yes.) When you were there, was playing in the pros really on the map?
JV: No, not really, because I never really was that dominating of a pitcher in high school or junior college where scouts were coming to talk to me. But the Sox came up and I went to a pre-draft workout, and they asked, “if we draft you, will you sign?” and I said, “yes.” So they were really the only team that was interested. And now I’m here.

CH: Do you still have a lot of family down in Honduras?
: Yeah, I went down there last year before I went to Winter Ball. I try to go there every two-to-three years, and I do have uncles and cousins down there.

CH: I’ve got to ask, if you don’t mind, if you’ve been keeping up on everything that’s happening down there politically. [NOTE: President Manuel Zelaya was recently deposed by a military-backed coup, leading to international calls for Zelaya’s return and violent protests.]
: I actually haven’t talked to my uncle, but I’ve been talking to my mom and she said it’s kind of bad right now. I have been keeping up with things, and I really didn’t like what the president was trying to do, so it was a good thing what they did.

CH: One last question, or series of questions rather: You’ve played with a lot of players in the Sox’ system. Let’s do some quick name association. Most impressive teammate you’ve had coming up through the system?
: Justin Masterson. Good guy, good team player, pretty much the nicest guy I’ve ever met.

CH: Best clubhouse guy, humor-wise?
: I’d say Manny Delcarmen. He’s a jokester.

CH: Or is it you? I’ve heard you joke around a bit yourself.
: Yeah, I do, but not like Manny.

CH: I’m sure you’ve seen the “Blame It on the Rain” video with Papelbon. That par for the course with him?
: That was perfect, yeah.

CH: You’ve named a pitcher, how about a hitter that’s impressed you on your way up through the system?
: I’d say Jacoby [Ellsbury]. He pretty much dominated at Double-A. Every time he got on, he scored. He got a hit, he somehow scored, whether stealing bases or stuff like that.