An announced San Antonio Missions crowd of 6,047 got a small glimpse into the future a few nights ago when big right-hander Cesar Vargas toed the rubber for the first time as a member of the San Diego Padres organization.
The 24-year old Vargas – now in his seventh season as a professional and currently a member of the Padres’ 40-man roster – delivered a solid 75-pitch performance (50 for strikes) in which he retired eight batters in a row at one point while fanning seven in San Antonio’s 6-4 loss to the Springfield Cardinals.
He signed with the organization on November 20 as a Major League free agent.
“I was just looking for an opportunity and after speaking with my agent I really liked what this organization had to offer.” Vargas said. “They were very upfront with me about everything and that’s why I am here.”
Although he spent a majority of his professional career pitching in the New York Yankees farm system mired in the bullpen, Vargas hasn’t started a game on the mound since 2013.
Nonetheless, San Antonio Missions Manager Phillip Wellman is convinced that the prized recruit may be well on his way to finally getting his turn in a major league rotation sooner rather than later. “It was the first time I have seen him pitch and I was really impressed with him.” Wellman said. “If he keeps pitching like this on a regular basis, he may force their hand (in elevating him to majors).”
The Puebla, Mexico native – a hulking right-hander with excellent velocity and command – is unsure of a scenario that would unfold with him strutting his stuff at Petco Park anytime soon, but in the meantime he will continue to spend the early part of the season in the Alamo City working towards his ultimate goal.
“They just told me to go slow and just execute all my pitches.” Vargas said. “I am trying to control my fastball, work harder on my cutter and not to hang any of my other pitches.”
Vargas has proven that he has the pedigree and poise to be a mainstay in the majors someday, spending last season at AA-Trenton where he put up some impressive numbers – mostly in relief – finishing the campaign 6-0 with a 2.79 ERA and four saves in 43 appearances. He also made three appearances for Triple A Scranton last year.
Once Vargas hit the showers after tossing 5-2/3 innings, San Antonio pitching coach Jimmy Jones was also able to sing his praises. “I was pleasantly surprised with his performance and I really enjoyed what I saw (when Vargas pitched).” Jones said. “He just needs to get refined and be more consistent like anybody else does. But his stuff is really good.”
A second start could come in this weekend’s series at Springfield and for Vargas another chance to dazzle his current coaches while building momentum towards a possible appearance in the majors in the near future in whatever capacity he is needed.
“I am going to keep working hard and doing what the coaches want me to do while I am here (in San Antonio).” Vargas said. “I am thankful for this opportunity and I hope that this is going to be my year.”
By Mark Caul