This time, the Jose V. the Tigers acquired for their bullpen is not a Papa, but he’s still a member of the family.
Hopefully he’s never going to overheat like the Big Potato.
Danry Vasquez we hardly knew ye. But that’s alright, because it will probably never matter. Vasquez was the prospect traded to the Houston Astros this week for relief pitcher Jose Veras. Or another way to put it – Vasquez has been exiled to Siberia. We may never hear from him again.
There’s a danger when you trade a prospect who has yet to blow out the candles on his 20th birthday cake – he might grow up to make you regret letting him go. (John Smoltz, anyone?) But, since Vasquez is an outfielder with middling potential, it’s likely the Tigers will never regret dealing him away before he can legally sip his first beer. Detroit is well stocked with outfielders and outfield prospects in the pipeline.
Veras is a tall (6 feet and 6 inches) Dominican, a right-handed reliever who joins his seventh team in the last five years. You think Octavio Dotel traveled a lot? He and Veras can swap packing tips.
So why has Veras bounced around so much? is he sought-after or has he struggled? More of the latter than the former, unfortunately. However, there’s reason to believe that this time the change of scenery will benefit Veras unlike it has in the past.
Now that he’s wearing the Old English D, why should Veras mature into a top-notch relief pitcher? He is in the midst of the best season in his career, but he’s hardly Mariano Rivera. But he doesn’t have to be, he just needs to be good enough. There are several reasons I think Veras may be poised to step up and be the final piece in the Tigers’ World Series plans.
#1. He’s well-armed
Veras has four quality major league pitches: a mid-90s fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. Most pitchers don’t have that type of arsenal, and this year, Veras has finally harnessed all four pitches in a way he hasn’t before. He still gets beat occasionally on his fastball when he keeps it high in the zone (the Tigers nicked him for a home run earlier this season), but his four pitches are all going good. It’s his changeup that has been very good this season – it stays low and then dips lower, almost into the dirt. Batters have been flailing at it, and if Veras keeps it going like that, he’ll make a lot of Tiger fans happy. His curve is also above average, and fewer relievers feature that pitch in today’s game. Also, Tiger rivals (the Tribe in the AL Central, and the Red Sox, A’s, Yankees, and Rangers in the post-season) have many fastball hitting batters. With his bender and changeup, Veras gives the Bengals a great weapon out of the bullpen.
#2. Comerica Park is made for him
So far in his career, Veras has never had a home park that was favorable to pitchers. In Houston, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and earlier at Yankee Stadium, Veras pitched in parks that were havens for hitters. This season with the Astros, Veras had posted a 3.58 ERA at Minute Maid Park, but twirled a dazzling 1.76 in away games. Now that he’ll be able to toss half his innings at Copa, where the outfield is deep and the runs are usually down, Veras could have a career year.
#3. The time is nigh
At 32 years old, Veras is entering the twilight years of his career, but many relievers have had big breakout years in their early 30s. Inked through the 2014 season (at a rather affordable price tag), Veras can rest assured that he won’t have to pack his bags for a while. That should prove to be settling.
#4. He’s an equal opportunity stopper
In his career, Veras has been just as stingy against left-handed batters as he has against righties. LH hitters have a .216 average against him, while lefties have also hit .216 against him, though with a tad bit more power. In large part due to the fact that Jose uses a variety of arm angles, he’s confounded both types of hitters in his career.
#5. The power of positive winning
We’ve seen it many times before: a player is dealt from a losing team to a wining team and they start to perform at a level that no one thought they could. Most recently the Tigers saw that from Doug Fister in 2011, another tall right-handed pitcher who was acquired at the trade deadline. Veras has gained about 20 games in the standings in coming over from the ‘Stros. He’s now on a pitching staff that includes a Cy Young winner, two pitchers who have tossed three combined no-hitters, a pitcher who is 15-1 and on track to win a Cy Young award, and a closer (Joaquin Benoit) who has been one of the best setup men in all of baseball for several seasons. The competitive juices should get him going, and given the fact that this is a team that typically starts playing their best baseball in August, I wouldn’t be surprised if Veras doesn’t suddenly look like Superman in Motown. (How was that not an ’80s movie starring Christopher Reeve and Michael Jackson?)
Veras saw his first action on Tuesday night against the Nationals, tossing a perfect inning to setup Benoit. He gives Dave Dombrowski and his manager Jim Leyland another live arm at the back end of the bullpen. In the post-season, where games are typically low scoring and decided in the late innings, Veras could be the final piece of the puzzle as the Tigs seek their first World Championship in 29 years.