Braves, Cox get their man in Vazquez
With endorsement from skipper, righty gets warm welcome
ATLANTA -- While serving as the manager of the Major League All-Star team that toured Japan in 2000, Braves skipper Bobby Cox gained a greater admiration for Javier Vazquez and returned to Atlanta to tell then-Braves general manager John Schuerholz to put the young hurler on his radar.
Eight years later, the Braves have been able to finally appease Cox with the acquisition of Vazquez, who was acquired from the White Sox in a six-player trade that was agreed upon Tuesday and finalized Thursday.
"I was fortunate to have [Vazquez] and Randy Johnson and a few other guys [in Japan]," Cox said. "Javy really stood out over there, not only as a pitcher, but as a person."
The Braves officially announced the acquisition of Vazquez and left-handed reliever Logan Boone on Thursday morning. In exchange for the pitchers, the White Sox received shortstop Brent Lillibridge, catcher Tyler Flowers, left-handed pitcher Santos Rodriguez and third baseman Jon Gilmore.
"[Vazquez] and I have faced each other so many times," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "He was always a guy I thought would look awfully good in a Braves uniform. Whenever we've faced him, we knew that we were going to be in a [fight]."
In 20 career starts against the Braves, Vazquez has gone 7-10 with a 3.80 ERA. But that's a statistic that won't matter while he rests in the middle of the Atlanta rotation for at least the next two seasons.
More relevant is the fact that he's limited the Braves to a .226 batting average and a .279 on-base percentage in 11 career starts at Turner Field.
"I just like Atlanta," Vazquez said. "I like the stadium. I'm a fly-ball pitcher, so this park suits me better."
Along with the opportunity to move to a different ballpark, Vazquez is also looking forward to the opportunity to remove himself from the negativity that he experienced while playing for often volatile White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
As the White Sox were preparing to play a key three-game series against the Twins in September, Guillen challenged Vazquez by questioning his toughness through the media. The 32-year-old pitcher won't experience this kind of treatment from the ever-positive Cox, who seldom publicly criticizes his players.
"It's good to get a fresh start and get away from the negativity," Vazquez said. "The negativity is never good. I'm a positive guy."
While still looking forward to the possibility that Wren will land A.J. Burnett to anchor the rotation, most of the Braves players reacted favorably to the acquisition of Vazquez, who went 12-16 with a 4.67 ERA in 33 starts for the White Sox this past season.
Although he wasn't as impressive as he was during his 15-win season in 2007, Vazquez notched 200 strikeouts, allowing him to rank among the top four American League pitchers in that category for a third straight season.
"[Vazquez] is good," Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "The fact I like is he eats innings. We need somebody like that."
Since the start of the 2000 season, Livan Hernandez is the only Major League pitcher to have thrown more innings than Vazquez, whose 208 1/3 innings this past season were 20 more than any Braves pitcher completed.
"He's going to throw a bunch of innings, and if we can support him, he's going to win a bunch of games," Jones said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.