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After having dominated the Gulf Coast League last year, pitching to a 1.96 ERA with a WHIP of 0.93 in 18 innings, he was promoted to Charleston, but struggled there somewhat. In just eight innings, he allowed four earned runs, gave up 11 hits and walked six batters.
"Hopefully in the bigs, with the Yankees," he said, when asked where he envisioned himself being in three years. "Being a Yankee is a dream come true. Not too many people are able to be in this situation. It's a good challenge for me and these other guys here."
In six games since joining the Yankees, Velazquez has pitched to a 1.86 ERA and struck out 8 batters in 9.2 innings.
He said that although he was a wide receiver in high school, he was drawn to baseball at an early age because of the sport's intensity and was greatly influenced by his older sister, whom he described as a tremendous softball player.
His repertoire consists of a sinker, slider, changeup and an occasional splitter. The splitter, he said, is his best pitch and in his opinion, it makes him most effective against left-handed batters.
"He's not really deceptive," said pitching coach Carlos Chantres. "He comes straight over the top, but he has pretty good stuff. The sinker is real good and he throws it anywhere from 87 to 90 [miles-per-hour]."
Velazquez said that his changeup is the pitch that needs the most work and Chantres added that his slider can "get a little loopy" at times when he "jumps out" on pitches.
"I like to just go after batters," said the pitcher. "You know, I don't want to get deep in counts and let them see too many pitches. What it is, [is] I try to be aggressive and attack the low part of the (strike) zone."
During the Yankees June 20th win over Williamsport, a fortuitous Velazquez got the opportunity to sit and converse with Octavio Dotel, an unlikely bullpen mate who was in Staten Island on a rehab assignment.
"He was talking about how a lot of hitters at the Major League level, they have stats on pitchers and know what type of pitches you like to throw in certain counts, so it's best that you know the hitter before you go out there," said the fledgling reliever excitedly, describing what the Yankee reliever told him as he picked his brain. "He said that you should also have an idea of what you can use against specific hitters in certain counts and stuff like that."
"He also mentioned that you've got to go with what you feel is the right pitch to throw. You don't always have to go with what the catcher is calling, but what you have confidence in and don't be scared to use what you're most comfortable with."
Asked if meeting an accomplished Major League pitcher was added incentive to improve, he said that he would treat the meeting as a motivational tool and without doubt, it has made him even hungrier to succeed.
"When you see those guys," he said, "it's like, you want to be in that position so bad some day and you want to do whatever it takes to get there. That means a lot of hard work and effort. It's not easy. When you're around the big league guys, you get that sense of what it takes to be a big leaguer and how to carry yourself and be a professional."
While recuperating from ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction - better known as Tommy John - surgery, Ocativo Dotel suffered a setback as he developed elbow tendonitis. On Thursday, he pitched an inning of relief for the Staten Island Yankees while on a rehab assignment.
Dotel, serving as a short reliever, entered the game in the seventh inning, replacing George Kontos, with the Yankees holding a 2-1 lead. He allowed a bloop single to Greg Picart and a subsequent line drive double to Francis Poni, but was able to work out of trouble. He struck out the next batter and ended the frame by inducing a 1-5 double play. He jammed the batter with a fastball - according to Carlos Chantres, the pitch was clocked at 91 miles-per-hour - and was able to catch the ball on-the-fly, then quickly threw to third base to nab Picart who had strayed several feet off the bag.
Most of the fastballs he threw were 91 miles-per-hour and he was able to hit 93 MPH twice.
"Everything feels good," he said after the game, wearing an ice pack over his right elbow and triceps. "Last time I was at 93-94. So for now, 93 is pretty good for me."
"When you're rehabbing that's pretty good...it's OK," he continued. "Of course, when you get to [higher] levels, your adrenaline goes up too. I don't want to disappoint the guys here, but when you've [had] seven years in the big leagues, you're kind of used to that situation. But I do expect to get more velocity and more power in my arm."
He said that he felt no discomfort throwing any of his pitches, including the breaking ball, but warned that real reassurance wouldn't come until he is able to test the arm the following day. If he is pain-free on Friday, he said that he will be very confident in his recovery.
"The rehab is going well right now," he said. "But I can't tell you [specifically] when I'll be back though. If I feel good tomorrow [Friday] and everything continues to go right, I could be back [with the Yankees] by next week."
When asked by a reporter if he would buy a big screen TV and leather couches for his temporary teammates as Roger Clemens had done, Dotel, who was jovial and upbeat, laughed and said, "Well, the Yankees do a great job of setting these guys up. They have a lot of good things over here so I don't think I have to do that."
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Bullpen Boost: Juan Velazquez & Octavio Dotel
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