Mazzaro's Magnificent Season Continues

Vince Mazzaro doesn't care how they come, he just likes to get outs. Some games, he uses his low- to mid-90s fastball to chalk up double-digit strikeouts, like he did on Tuesday night. Other games, he relies on hitters to pound his sinker into the dirt, racking up ground-out after ground-out. Both ways have worked for Mazzaro this season, who leads all Double-A starters with a sparkling 2.11 ERA.

On Tuesday, Vince Mazzaro added a historical footnote to his outstanding 2008 campaign. The right-hander accomplished a rare feat, striking out four batters in the sixth inning of the Midland Rockhounds' 6-0 win over Corpus Christi. Mazzaro worked eight scoreless innings in the game, allowing only four hits and striking out 10.

Mazzaro was inconsistent with Stockton last season.
Through Tuesday, Mazzaro is sporting a 9-3 record with that league-leading 2.11 ERA and a 89:32 K:BB ratio in 119 innings pitched. He has allowed only 103 hits and has limited Texas League batters to an anemic .236 BA, while allowing only three homeruns all season. Those numbers are a far cry from Mazzaro's efforts the past two seasons. In 2006, the New Jersey native posted a 5.05 ERA and allowed 146 hits in 119.1 innings for the Low-A Kane County Cougars. In 2007, Mazzaro posted a 5.33 ERA and allowed 159 hits plus 71 walks for the High-A Stockton Ports.

It is in part because of those poorer numbers in 2006 and 2007 that Mazzaro's fine effort in 2008 has somewhat flown under the radar. He was named the starter of the Texas League All-Star game, but he is rarely mentioned by national pundits as a top pitching prospect despite being one of the youngest pitchers in the league at age 21.

Oakland A's Minor League Pitching Coordinator Gil Patterson believes that Mazzaro should be regarded in the same company as his Midland Rockhounds' teammates past and present, the highly touted Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Henry Rodriguez.

Mazzaro's entire arsenal of pitches has improved this season.
"Why didn't [Mazzaro] go to the Futures Game? This guy is leading the Texas League in ERA and is second in wins. He's been consistently outstanding," Patterson said.

Mazzaro has a laid back personality and hasn't appeared bothered by relative lack of attention, according to Patterson.

"He isn't like that [looking for the accolades]. He more like, ‘well Gomer, I'll just go out and get the next guy out,'" Patterson joked.

Part of the reason for Mazzaro's improved numbers this season is his physical maturity over the past six months. Over the off-season, Mazzaro's body "leaned up" in the words of A's farm director Keith Lieppman. As a result, Mazzaro added a few miles per hour to his already solid fastball, putting it in the 91-95 MPH range.

Mazzaro's secondary stuff has also improved. He showed flashes of plus secondary pitches last season with Stockton, but the quality of those pitches tended to fluctuate from start to start. This year, Mazzaro has been commanding those pitches much better. Mazzaro's best pitch is a power sinker, but he can also spin an above-average curveball and mix-in a solid change-up.

"I was working out in a gym last week and one of the other Texas League managers came in and he said ‘the hitters say [Mazzaro's] ball is never straight. One ball is cutting, one ball is sinking, one is changing speeds and one is a curveball,'" Patterson said.

As good as Mazzaro was before the All-Star break (7-3, 2.36 ERA and a .240 BAA), he has been even better since the break, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.29 ERA in four starts. He has struck-out nearly a batter an inning (24 in 28 innings) and has held opposing batters to a .206 average. He has allowed only 29 base-runners in those 28 innings.

The way that Mazzaro has dominated this season, Texas League hitters are probably hopeful that the right-hander will be moving up to Triple-A sometime soon. Patterson is in no hurry to see Mazzaro join the Sacramento River Cats rotation, however.

"I think he is quite capable [of pitching in Triple-A]. I am probably a guy who says let a guy stay in one level for a whole year and just let him dominate at that level and move them up the next year," Patterson said.

"Each case might be different though. Sometimes you have to give a guy a taste at that higher level, so there are different times that you move someone."

Patterson has no doubts, however, that Mazzaro would be able to handle the jump should the A's decide to move him up a level.

"Honestly, if he was to pitch in Triple-A this year, I don't see him not being able to pitch just as well as he has been pitching at Double-A."

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