Vasquez Warming Up to Big League Ball

An opportunity to play in the major leagues is a universal dream for all minor league players. I sat down with Virgil Vasquez upon his return to Toledo to talk about his dream of playing major league baseball and to find out how it felt to start for the Detroit Tigers in an AL Central rivalry game on national television.

TigsTown: What was your reaction when you found out you would be starting for the Tigers?

Virgil Vasquez: They took me out of the dugout and told me there was a sixty percent chance I'd get to start. I was excited that my dream of pitching in the big leagues could come true. I was only allowed to call my parents wasn't allowed to tell my teammates. And then a couple of days later I got the nod. It was just one of those [things] that feels great. I felt ready, went out there and gave it my best shot.

TT: What was it like to start your first game on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball?

VV: I actually had fun with it since it was on ESPN and everybody was able to watch. I had a lot of people contact me after the game and say "good job." You hope and expect the results to be better, and they weren't, but next time they will be.

TT: Describe your reaction when you were in the dugout about to take the mound looking at the lineup card for one of the best offenses in the league.

VV: Before the game I checked with Pudge and we went over the lineup and realized that like for any hitters I'd have to change speeds and I just didn't do that consistently through my start. All the teams have great lineups out there that's why the players are in the big leagues.

TT: How relieving was it to get your first out against Michael Cuddyer?

VV: Not very. I knew I still had to pitch for five more innings. And then Tori Hunter came up and you know the rest of the story with that one.

TT: How did it feel to reunite with players like catcher Mike Rabelo who you played with in single-A and double-A? And fellow minor league pitchers Aquilino Lopez, Tim Byrdak and Chad Durbin?

VV: It was fun having them there, it made things easier it made things in the club house easier. "Rab" is a great guy and he is a good friend at it was good to see him I hadn't seen him in a while. I met a lot of the guys in spring training like Rabelo and Durbin, and Byrdak got called up when I got sent down and it was good to see him and I am just real excited for him. It makes it easier on the other teammates because guys in the clubhouse ask about you before you get there.

TT: How were the Tiger superstars like Gary Sheffield, and Magglio Ordonez towards you?

VV: Great. After my start Kenny [Rogers] and "Bondo" [Jeremy Bonderman] gave me some really kind words and Sean Casey was great. All of them were really nice even the coaching staff. And that's why they win. They have great chemistry up there and hopefully I can go up there and add to that this year.

TT: What was the best lesson you learned while competing with the Tigers?

VV: Just to keep under control, stay relaxed and keep that ball down in the zone. You can't succeed up there without doing those things. It's a controlled aggression you have to have on the mound.

TT: What were the best and worst parts about being promoted to the Tigers?

VV: It's all good. Everything that came out of it was good learning experience. I wouldn't say I fulfilled my dream but I fulfilled part of my dream, making it to the big leagues.

TT: How long has becoming an MLB pitcher been a dream of yours?

VV: When I took my Mom out to dinner for mother's day, the night before my start, she reminded me that ever since I was six that this has been my dream.

TT: What was your favorite major league team to root for as a youngster?

VV: The Cardinals. My Mom was from St. Louis and she was a big baseball fan and my Dad never really played any sports so we rooted for the Cardinals. But since getting drafted I've been a huge Tigers fan.

TT: What are your short-term and long-term goals for yourself and the Mud Hens this season?

VV: You know just to try to be consistent and work on finding that consistent third pitch to throw that has a different velocity-something a lot slower. And for the team, I just want to keep finding ways to win and to give my team a chance to win. I want to be consistent in everything I do this season and stay healthy.

TT: Do you think it will be significantly easier pitching in Toledo now that you've had a taste of the big leagues and the big league pressures?

VV: It will probably be the same, I just think next time I go up to Detroit it will be a little easier because I will know what to expect more. It's the same game, I just need to compete and relax and just trust myself.

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