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Vazquez trying to remedy pitch tipping issue

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates are trying to get Felipe Vazquez on track. Vazquez has been tipping his pitches, and while it doesn't threaten his spot in the bullpen as the Pirates' closer, he is working to fix it constantly.

Vazquez believes he was tipping his pitches to the Cardinals last Thursday after they scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth in a 10-8 walk-off loss. The left-hander said he physically felt good before the blown save.

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ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates are trying to get Felipe Vazquez on track. Vazquez has been tipping his pitches, and while it doesn't threaten his spot in the bullpen as the Pirates' closer, he is working to fix it constantly.

Vazquez believes he was tipping his pitches to the Cardinals last Thursday after they scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth in a 10-8 walk-off loss. The left-hander said he physically felt good before the blown save.

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Vazquez said his forearm was fine and there wasn't anything glaring about his delivery.

"Looking back, I have no idea what happened [in the ninth]," Vazquez said after Thursday's game. "It was not my day. I was feeling good, I was making pitches like I did, they just probably saw something that I didn't know, because they were taking pitches like they knew they were coming."

Vazquez had the day off on Friday, and manager Clint Hurdle played coy when asked if the reliever was available for Saturday's eventual 3-2 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

"We may have made up our mind that we're not going to use him today," Hurdle said. "We may have made up our mind that if we play 16 innings, we'll have to use him today."

Hurdle added that pitchers all around the league give away their pitches, yet teams still couldn't hit off them. Catchers and third-base coaches can give pitches away too, but Hurdle said he doesn't think Francisco Cervelli is doing that.

The problem isn't a revelation for the Pirates. Hurdle said Vazquez has been tipping pitches for over a year, and that many Major Leaguers do the same. However, Hurdle does think Vazquez can be a pitcher that can be effective even when tipping his pitches.

But that wasn't the case as of late.

"Right now, they're [hitting off me], so I kind of have to work on it a little bit more," Vazquez said.

The process of finding out what's going wrong has been frustrating for Vazquez. He's watched video from the past two seasons to pinpoint what it could be. Vazquez said he's specifically looked at when he's getting set, because teams know when he's coming with a breaking ball or fastball, and it's hardest to adjust when he's already on the mound.

"When you come into an inning, you're not thinking of doing that, you're just thinking of making pitches," Vazquez said.

Going forward, Hurdle said it's important for Vazquez's bullpen spot not to be messed with, and the Pirates aren't considering that right now. Hurdle added that almost all of the Pirates' pitchers are going out to perform at a high level every night, but some, like Vazquez, are used to the high-leverage situations.

"It's a whole different ballgame for [relievers]," Hurdle said. "Some of those men, the adrenaline actually is a big part of what they do."

Sean Collins is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Felipe Vazquez