For those who already have written off Javier Vazquez as a lost cause because of his awful April results, it is easy to shrug your shoulders and say that he didn't accomplish anything on Tuesday night. It was just the Orioles, after all, and seven strong innings in those circumstances matter about as much as a strong performance controlling himself in a round of MLB2K10 on the XBox.
If you take the outing on its own, that's a hard view to contradict. Taking it as the latest sign that Vazquez has put things together well enough to be a servicable fifth starter on a good team, however, makes it much harder to see the point of all the grumpiness. Vazquez was sharp on Tuesday, striking out seven and inducing nine ground balls while rarely falling behind in the three-ball counts that devastated him earlier this season. He also got two outs with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, impressive no matter the competition.
He was, in short, a very different pitcher on the first day of June than the one who was booed off the mound on the first day of May. And while he may not have pitched well in his previous start in Minnesota, he's now got a 2.77 ERA with 23 strikeouts and eight walks in 23 innings since being skipped following that opening start last month. Three of his last four starts have been quite good, which isn't something Phil Hughes or CC Sabathia can say for themselves, and it's not like he isn't going to be seeing a lot more teams of Baltimore's caliber going forward.
Vazquez dug himself a deep hole, he's climbing out of it but we get that he might never do enough to overcome the psychic weight of Johnny Damon's grand slam and a rough month out of the gate in his return. Speaking of psychic weight, Joba Chamberlain also pitched well in his one inning of work to move past the disaster he turned in on Saturday against the Indians. It's less clear that he's trending in the right direction, however.
Chamberlain's peripheral stats all speak to a guy who should be dominating the opposition at the same level he did in 2008 but he is actually struggling in high leverage situations and has, overall, done more to advance Yankee losses than Yankee victories. Reserving any greater judgment until there's more data is the wisest course, but it isn't too early to express the observation that even if the numbers look the same as 2008, the pitcher doesn't.
What all of the yo-yoing and flip-flopping has done to Chamberlain mentally only he can tell you, but there's little sign of the guy who used generated such a fevered cadre of supporters for keeping him in a relief role. Maybe that can change or maybe this was just a game against the Orioles.