TRENTON, NJ – The lively Trenton Thunder clubhouse became a bit more raucous Thursday afternoon in Akron.
Lefty James Pazos, the hulking 6-foot-3, 230-poumd native of Gilbert, Ariz., finally was promoted to the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate after rehabbing a shoulder injury suffered at the end of Spring Training in Tampa. Always with a smile, he can’t help but light up a room.
“I am really glad to be back here, had enough of Tampa for the time being,” said Pazos, who burst onto the Yankees’ development radar in 2014 with an 0-1, 1.50 effort with six saves in 28 appearances with the Thunder. “I just want to pitch.”
Trenton manager Al Pedrique is glad to add Pazos, a 13th-round draft pick in 2012 out of the University of San Diego.
“It gives us another good lefty in the bullpen,” said Pedrique. “James is rally starting to settle down and use his ability. I had him in Charleston and Tampa the last two years. With his delivery, it’s very tough for hitters to see the ball.
“Hitters can’t really see his stuff.”
Like Jacob Lindgren, his 2014 Trenton roommate, Pazos throws a filthy, dipping slider. His fastball has reached 94, and sets up the slider well. He is also working on a changeup. He struck out 42 in 42 innings last season with the Thunder, holding Eastern League hitters to a .190 average. Lefties had even more headaches against him.
He is happy for his former roomie.
“I sent Jake a text congratulating him,” said Pazos. “He has the stuff to stay with the Yankees. Our approaches to pitching are kind of similar.
He assumed Trenton jersey No. 45, previously worn by pitcher Luis Severino, who was promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last week.
“I took 45 back,” Pazos chuckled. “That was my number last year here. He took it when I was rehabbing in Tampa.”
Meanwhile, what he did in Trenton in 2014 advanced his standing as a bullpen prospect, as much more than a LOOGY.
“I appreciate you telling me that” said Pazos. “When you are down in Tampa, rehabbing, you know there is a goal, but it can get tough day after day. They are taking care of you, but you want to pitch.
“In Akron the other day, I was a bit jumpy and overanxious, but I just wanted to get on the mound. Now that I am here, I know what I am working on and looking to focus on it.
“So it’s ninety degrees in Trenton? That’s a cool day for me.”
Like Lindgren, Pazos looks to dominate hitters with his slider. As Pedrique mentioned, his funky delivery is tough enough for hitters to pick up with a hard, dipping slider coming their way. Pazos is also working on that changeup, which, with his fastball, could add more deception.
As another bullpen lefty who has averaged 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings, he sees the opportunity as long as his command and focus stay solid.
“It’s great guys like Jake, Slade (now on the DL with Grade 2 quad strain) and Ramon are getting chances up there (with the Yankees),” said Pazos. “There has been more movement this year than in the last three. Guys in the clubhouse here can see it.
“We’re all really excited and see there is a good chance to eventually compete on the big-league level.”
If Pazos can match his 2014 Trenton performance in 2015, with another year of maturity and experience, there is no reason he can’t start 2016 at Triple-A.
Like his ex-roomate, he’s certainly got the goods.