Pazos Comes Back Hungry

TRENTON, NJ - It took a while but James Pazos finally made his season debut on Thursday against the Akron RubberDucks. He had just come off the disabled list because of a shoulder injury he suffered around the beginning of this season that caused inflammation and prevented him from pitching at the start of the season, but now he's back and hungrier than ever.

His start may have had lasted just six pitches and two-thirds of an inning but Trenton Thunder manager Al Pedrique saw enough out of his first appearance, which also included his first strikeout of the season, to feel good about him going forward.

“Even though he faced two guys, I saw life in his fastball,” Pedrique said after Pazos' debut. “What I saw [on Thursday] was a small sample but you can tell he’s been working on his mechanics, staying back and get full extension and create a good angle on his fastball. If he continues doing that and stays consistent, he’s going to be tough to hit.”

Pazos began last year playing for Tampa in high-A and was having a pretty good season, striking 33 in 25 innings pitched while holding batters to a .237 batting average. This was enough for him to get a promotion to the Trenton Thunder midway through 2014 and Pazos flourished.

Pazos finished his first Trenton season with a stellar 1.50 ERA, 42 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched, and went six for six in save opportunities. He didn’t just adjust well to the Double-A level but he pitched better once he got promoted there.

He got a chance to be with the big league Yankees during Spring Training this year and for the most part did well in his five appearances. He struck out six batters in 4.1 innings pitched while allowing two hits and an earned run. Pazos was certainly coming into the season with a lot of momentum until the injury derailed him.

While all those numbers sound great for Pazos, the focus and the goal for him right now is to keep him injury-free for the rest of the season according to Thunder pitching coach Jose Rosado.

“One thing we really focus [on] is to keep him healthy,” Rosado said. “This is a guy that can do a lot of things if he stays healthy and that’s our main goal right now. I’m excited to have him and we have a game plan for him, to work with him, and hopefully boost our bullpen.”

While he spent the beginning portion of the season rehabbing in Tampa, Pazos spent time working on not just getting healthy, but also improving on increasing his fastball velocity, his mechanics, and overall control of his offspeed pitches.

Obviously not happy with having to rehab the injury, it gave Pazos a chance to improve on those previously mentioned aspects of his pitching.

“I’m excited to come back,” Pazos said. “There’s been more movement within the organization than in the past and it’s got us relievers hungrier and more excited to work hard.”

The 24-year-old has a fastball that reached as high as 95 mph against Akron the other day, a slider whose command has been getting better according to coaches and a changeup that is still being worked on.

What makes him such a dangerous pitcher in his time in Tampa and Trenton since the start of 2014 is the unorthodox delivery that he has. Add that to his 6-feet 3-inches and 230 pound frame, and the ability to be able to get both lefties and righties out, you have the makings of a potentially great reliever, at least to Pedrique.

“It’s hard for hitters to get a good read on his fastball because of his delivery,” Pedrique said. “It’s kind of funky; there’s a lot of body movement and in the last year, two years, you could tell then that opposing hitters weren’t comfortable because they couldn’t see the ball well coming out of his hand.”

Even though Pazos played in Trenton last season as a late inning reliever and occasional closer, his role has yet to be determined for this season. His presence is a welcome addition to the bullpen of a Thunder team that has been hovering around the .500 mark all season long, but coaches were noncommittal when asked about his role, so it could be some time before he has a set position on the team.

He just got back to Trenton, so we won’t be hearing any news of a promotion any time soon either according to Pedrique, but being a left-handed pitcher that can get batters from both sides of the plate out keeps him on the radar. He’ll have to reestablish himself as a key cog in the bullpen, but so far he’s done all the right things while rehabbing and in his season debut.

If he keeps consistently throwing strikes, stay healthy, and show that he can dominate at this level, it wouldn’t surprise a lot of people if he would end up in Triple-A before the year is over.

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