Vazquez's 'Nightmare' name has off-field origin

Closer's intimidating nickname dubbed by clubhouse manager 'Bones'

August 7th, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- There can’t be much of a backstory here, right? It seems so easy to explain ’s “Nightmare” nickname, the one he’ll wear on the back of his Players’ Weekend jersey from Aug. 23-25.

Vazquez is an All-Star closer with a triple-digit fastball and three other nasty swing-and-miss pitches. For hitters, facing him is a nightmare. There, that’s the story. Or is it?

Players’ Weekend is returning Aug. 23-25, and with it an assortment of player nicknames -- some plain, some funny, some easily explained and some more mysterious. Since the first Players’ Weekend two years ago, Vazquez has been dubbed “Nightmare.” The nickname caught on, and part of his introductory video at PNC Park now includes broadcaster Greg Brown exclaiming, “It’s a nightmare!”

Two years ago, when he was still going by Felipe Rivero, Vazquez kicked around the idea of making his nickname “Philip Rivers.” That was what people called him when he was with the Nationals, playing on his name and the NFL quarterback, so it made sense. He thought about a jersey featuring the name of his warm-up song at the time, Marc Anthony’s “Aguanile.”

Vazquez wound up leaving the decision in the hands of clubhouse manager Scott “Bones” Bonnett, and Bonnett settled on “Nightmare.” But why? Vazquez directed a reporter to ask Bonnett for the answer, which was not what you’d expect.

“I believe one day he walked in, and I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re my nightmare. Every time you walk in, I don’t know what I’m going to get from you good, bad or indifferent,’” Bonnett said. “That’s basically the origin of it. He’s my worst nightmare.”

Bonnett laughed. He meant it in the best possible way, a good-natured jab at the laid-back and “off-the-wall” Vazquez. It stuck, then it took on a life of its own. At this year’s All-Star Game, opposing hitters even brought up Vazquez’s nickname when talking about what it was like to face him.

“Actually, it transformed in a good way. It’s kind of a good thing,” Bonnett said. “I love him to death, but man, every time he comes in, it’s like, what are you going to get? What’s behind Door No. 1 and Door No. 2? And it always leads to Door No. 3 and 4. That’s basically the gist of it.

“When he goes on the field, he’s a nightmare for hitters. But when he’s in the clubhouse, he’s a nightmare for me -- in a good way. … Me and him, we mess around with each other the whole entire season. He’s one of the guys that I actually like coming in here to see. He puts a smile on my face, no matter what.”

The Pirates’ longtime clubhouse manager paused and grinned.

“But he is,” Bonnett said. “He’s a complete nightmare.”

It was inevitable
In April, local artist Cody Sabol paid a visit to PNC Park to deliver some paintings he’d made for Pirates starter . They got to talking, and at one point the conversation turned to the upcoming release of “Avengers: Endgame.”

Not long after that, Sabol let Musgrove know he had an idea: a baseball glove designed like Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet, the one worn by the character Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War.” Musgrove was intrigued.

Sabol delivered, as he had on a handful of other projects for Pirates players, and Musgrove got to show off his creation around the ballpark.

“I didn’t know it was going to turn out this good or this unique. It’s really sweet,” Musgrove said, smiling. “I’m going to try to [wear it] on that Players’ Weekend. I’m not sure if they’ll let me, but I’m going to wear it out there until they tell me to take it off.”