Javier Vasquez pitched with poise and confidence yesterday and handled the explosive White Sox offense, allowing one run and three hits in eight innings of work. I was able to catch most of the game on Yankee Rewind last night, and it was a pleasure watching Vasquez pitch. Unlike the dearly-departed Jeff Weaver--who pitched well in his Dodger debut--and the hulking Jose Contreras, Vasquez displays a classic, compact pitching form. It looks as if he uses his entire body, especially his legs. After the game, the new Yankee received raves from his peers. According to the Times:
After watching Vazquez for the first time at Yankee Stadium, Mussina is a believer.
"He threw whatever pitch he wanted whenever he wanted to," Mussina said. "He looked like he was in control. He was in control of himself physically; he was in control of his emotions. He looked comfortable. He looked like he had been out there the whole season."
...[White Sox catcher, Sandy] Alomar explained that Vazquez throws his fastball at 92 or 93 miles an hour, not exceedingly fast. But his curveball, Alomar added, makes the fastball seem faster. "It looks like he's throwing it 150 miles an hour," Alomar said.
"He throws the breaking ball for strikes," Alomar said. "You don't know where it's going to land. He changes speeds with the breaking ball. He throws it hard. He throws it at you. He knows how to set you up. He is a very smart pitcher. He would have beat everybody in the major leagues today. Nobody would have beat him today with the stuff he had. We have a good offensive team, but he was on today."
The Yankee offense hasn't found its groove yet; hitting coach, Don Mattingly thinks that his guys are pressing. It's been great to see Mattingly in the dugout so far. For longtime Yankee fans, it's comforting to see him along with Willie Randolph--now in Popeye Zimmer's seat next to Torre--Roy White and Mel Stotlemyre on the bench. White has a gaunt face, with puffy eyes. I was trying to think who he looks like, and the closes thing I can come up with is E.T.
At one point during the game, Mattingly was on the bench talking with Giambi. I can't exactly explain why, but the image got me all soft and fuzzy. I didn't have a Steinbrenner moment, but it was a cool sight all the same. You know what I love about baseball? Players and coaches sit cross-legged on the bench. Often they have their arm behind the guy next to them, as they sit on their side, deep in conversation. When was the last time you saw a basketball or football player sitting cross-legged? For me, it's another example of how baseball players are like regular guys. That doesn't mean they are refined. One look at the dugout floor is enough to put you off your bread and jam for a week. But it suggest a kind of ease and comfort with each other that is appealing.
Oh, here's something that should enrage Derek Jeter's many critics. The shortstop was charged with an error in the second inning when he couldn't field a hard-hit ball by Joe Crede (who made three fine plays at third base himself). Joe Torre lobbied to have the call reversed after the game, and the official scorer, Bill Shannon, complied. To be fair, it was a tough error, but it seems cheesy to have it over-turned. But I understand what Torre was doing. He understands that Jeter is going to take a lot of flack this year for his fielding, and he is trying his best to protect his guy.