Vasquez's Long Wait

He's not Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, or Rafeal Palmiero. For that matter, Sendy Vasquez is not a name that many Tigers fans in general are familiar with. However, the 24-year old pitching prospect has become a part of the ever-present steroid cloud that looms over baseball and will be sitting out 50 games as a result of testing positive for a performance enhancing substance.

Actions such as this typically tarnish the remainder of an individual player's career; what many fans don't realize are the multiple implications such an act places on an organization as well. Nevertheless, Tigers fans should examine the situation and give Sendy a second chance.

Sendy Vasquez made his minor league debut at the age of 21 after Detroit signed him in 2003 as an undrafted free agent. The young pitcher began his career in the Gulf Coast League and played there for a total of two years, pitching mainly as a reliever while making an occasional spot start.

Upon signs of improvement, Vasquez was then moved to Oneonta where he would undergo his next major step, starting on a regular basis. In 11 starts, Vasquez's record was an impressive 7-0 with a 3.63 ERA. As expected, this performance moved the 24-year old up another level to West Michigan. Vasquez continued his success, starting 26 games with a record of 13-6 and a 2.97 ERA.

Gracing his way through the Detroit organization, the young right-hander earned a spot on the Lakeland Flying Tigers roster for the 2007 season. Under the shadow of top prospect Andrew Miller and several other Whitecaps alumni, Vasquez quietly became the #5 starter in the rotation. Unfortunately, Vasquez's season plunged downhill from this point on.

Leading up to his failed drug test, Vasquez struggled desolately with control issues in A+ baseball. In just four starts, a 0-3 record surfaced with an even less impressive 8.20 ERA. Just when the season looked like it couldn't have gotten off to any worse of a start, the disappointing drug test results came back, peppered all over the national sports media. Immediately, Vasquez was slapped with a 50-game suspension and placed on the restricted list.

While the young pitcher won't receive any pay during this period, he will still have to work out every day as usual. He will stay in Lakeland, but instead of working with the Flying Tigers, the organization plans to work him with the rest of the extended spring training roster.

Manager Kevin Bradshaw commented about the situation stating, "He's able to pitch down there (extended spring training) in games for them and get all of his work in and stay sharp and actually work on a few things while he's down there." When asked if Vasquez will rejoin the team, Bradshaw stated that he should return to the roster once the suspension has been served.

While such a difficult situation certainly entails many troubling consequences for the initial player involved, such actions also affect the local team and organization as a whole.

To begin with, Lakeland was forced to generate another starter to fill the #5 spot. On May 1st, which was originally a scheduled start for Vasquez, Lakeland brought reliever Matt Righter out of the bullpen to make the trip to the mound.

In later games, manager Kevin Bradshaw experimented with the open slot, and 29-year old right-hander Kyle Denney was then placed on the roster from extended spring training. Denney, a former Cleveland Indians prospect, appears to be the favored choice for the spot right now, and Bradshaw confirmed this by stating, "Today we're going to stretch out Kyle, and he's going to stay in that 5th spot as long as he can stay healthy. He's coming off of a major surgery and he's only ten months off of that, so as long as he stays healthy, the plan as of today is to keep him in that 5th spot."

The major surgery Bradshaw refers to was just the latest in the list of setbacks throughout Denney's career that include undergoing Tommy John surgery, a random gunshot to the calf while riding an Indians team bus, and a line drive to the head that created a fractured skull. However, Lakeland is glad to have Denney, and the newly acquired starter looks to keep pressing on with his career in baseball.

As of May 9th, Denney has appeared in two games for the Flying Tigers, the most notable being a no-decision start. In 5 and 1/3 innings pitched, Denney has generated a 6.75 ERA, a statistic that doesn't bode well for Tigers fans.

Fortunately, Tigers fans can look forward to Vasquez starting games again in Lakeland once his suspension is served. Bradshaw claimed that he was unaware of what substance Vasquez was caught using and claimed that, "He's (Vasquez) a good kid; I think he might have taken something that he didn't know he really took." In other words, baseball fans should forgive Sendy Vasquez and give him another chance.

Upon returning, the young pitcher could very well put up numbers that resemble those from his early career, a transition that would prove to be a much needed boost for the struggling Flying Tigers. Inevitably, all good things are worth waiting for. In Lakeland's case, the wait is 50 games.

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