It has almost become an offseason ritual. Semi-retired/oft-injured/tired old guy/PED shamed hurler mulls a comeback, will throw for prospective teams. Occasionally, we’re treated to such nostalgia driven spectacles mid-season, like the minor league reemergence of Rogers Clemens and Ben Sheets crawling out of his grave in 2012. Hey, they made for great stories, regardless of how prosperous the results were. Enter Javier Vazquez and usual suspect Brandon Webb as the front runners in this winter’s back-from-the-dead pitcher campaign.
Vazquez is a particularly interesting case given that he seemingly just sat out the 2012 season after a nice return to form with the Marlins in 2011. The 36-year old right hander is reportedly considering a comeback, and will be pitching in a Puerto Rican Winter League playoff game on Friday in front of Boston Red Sox scouts. Vazquez joined the Marlins on a one-year deal after a second disastrous run with the New York Yankees in 2010. He was good in 2011, but he was great in 2009. In perhaps his greatest season, Vazquez won 15 games with the Atlanta Braves while finishing with a 2.87 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 2.77 xFIP. He struck out 238 batters in 219.1 innings, often making opponents look silly like this:
Webb, who has not pitched in MLB since 2009, will throw a bullpen session for interested parties later this month, Jon Heyman reports. The 2006 National League Cy Young winner has undergone multiple shoulder surgeries which have derailed previous comeback attempts. At this point, he seems like a longshot to complete a successful return to Major League Baseball. So broken that the Minnesota Twins would probably pass on him. Still, he was great once. Mark Prior was great many moons ago, too, and he’s sure to be looking for work on the heels of a brief run with the Pawtucket Red Sox last season. Prior either struck out or walked every batter he faced in Triple-A (not really, but almost) before finding himself released to open up a roster spot.
Maybe it’s a case of a year off worked wonders for Vazquez, who is reportedly touching 92-93 mph in his workouts. It’s reasonable to consider that Vazquez could be an effective contributor to most Major League rotations next season. Health has never been an issue for Vazquez as he’s made at least 26 starts in each of his 14 seasons, and he’s been effective everywhere he’s pitched outside of New York.
For Webb, a best case scenario may be a Sheets-like return. Sheets pitched moderately well for the Braves in nine starts, but old arm woes eventually took him down for good. Sheets made the final start of his career on October 3rd, leaving the game on his terms, so to speak. That was his final triumph. Count me among those wishing for a successful comeback bid from Webb, but I just don’t see it happening.
Vazquez, on the other hand, could be just a Friday evening trouncing of the Cangrejeros de Santurce away from returning to Major League Baseball.
Scout on Javier Vazquez in PR winter ball: Physically looks great, ball coming out of his hand well, could be a sneaky good pickup.
— Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo) January 3, 2013
So, that’s something.