Felipe Vázquez

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Felipe Javier Rivero Vazquez
played as Felipe Rivero until 2018

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 6' 0", Weight 150 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Felipe Vazquez reached the major leagues in 2015, when he was still known as Felipe Rivero.

The lefthanded Rivero signed with the Tampa Bay Rays before the 2009 season; the scout was Ronnie Blanco. He was 6-4 with a save and a 3.74 ERA in his pro debut with the 2009 VSL Rays, tying him for 4th in the Venezuelan Summer League in wins. Back with the same club in 2010, the teenager went 3-3 with two saves and a 2.09 ERA; had he qualified, he would have led the VSL in ERA. He moved up to the Princeton Rays in 2011 and had mediocre numbers (3-3, 4.62) despite 57 K to 13 walks in 60 1/3 innings. Baseball America rated the lefty as the 9th-best Appalachian League prospect, between J.R. Graham and Ryan Brett.

He began 2012 doing well with the Bowling Green Hot Rods (6-7, 2.35). Chosen for the World team in the 2012 Futures Game, he took the decision in a 17-5 defeat to the US. He relieved Chris Reed in the 4th inning with a 4-4 tie. He walked Jonathan Singleton, retired Michael Choice and walked Nick Castellanos. Tommy Joseph then delivered a double and an error on the play by Oscar Taveras made it 6-4. Rivero walked a third batter, Anthony Gose, then got Billy Hamilton to ground into an inning-ending double play. Enny Romero relieved him in the 5th. He finished the season with a record of 8-8, 3.41 for Bowling Green. In 2013, he moved up to the Charlotte Stone Crabs of the Florida State League, where he was 9-7, 3.40 in 25 games, including 23 starts. He pitched 127 innings, striking out 91 and walking 51.

At the start of spring training in 2014, the Rays traded him to the Washington Nationals along with C Jose Lobaton and OF Drew Vettleson in return for P Nathan Karns. He spent the season back in the minors as he struggled with his health, pitching at four different levels including rehabilitation assignments. In all, he made 14 starts, going 2-7, 3.35, with 50 strikeouts in 53 233 innings. He moved to the bullpen with the AAA Syracuse Chiefs at the start of 2015 and had given up 3 runs in 2 2/3 innings in his first three outings when he was called up to Washington on April 16th when Craig Stammen was placed on the disabled list. He made his debut the next day, giving up a run on 3 hits and striking out 2 in 1 inning of work against the Philadelphia Phillies. On October 1st, he recorded his first career save by retiring all six batters he faced in a 3-0 win over the Atlanta Braves; it was the first save opportunity by a Nationals' pitcher since closer Jonathan Papelbon had been suspended for the final week of the season. He finished the year at 2-1, 2.79 in 49 games with 2 saves, having given up only 35 hits in 48 1/3 innings while striking out 43 and walking 11.

Rivero started the 2016 season as the primary set-up man for Papelbon. On July 30th, he was 0-3, 4.53 and 16 holds when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates along with minor leaguer Taylor Hearn in return for Pirates closer Mark Melancon. Her pitched a further 28 games for Pittsburgh, going 1-3, 3.29. Overall for the season, he was 1-6, 4.09 with 1 save in 75 appearances. His 92 strikeouts in 77 innings gave an indication that he had potential closer stuff, something which convinced the Pirates to try him in that role in 2017. He blossomed by pitching 73 times with a record of 5-3 and 21 saves to go along with a 1.76 ERA. He also struck out 88 batters in 75 1/3 innings, against just 20 walks. Observers did not fail to note that had the Nationals just hung on to him, he would have gone a long way to solving the bullpen problems that hurt them badly in the first half of that season.

In early 2018, he announced that he had legally changed his last name to "Vazquez", to match that used by his sister, Prescilla, a resident of Florida who serves as his closest adviser. He started the season on the wrong foot, as on Opening Day, March 29th, he blew a four-run 9th inning lead against the Detroit Tigers in a game the Bucs eventually won in extra innings. He quickly overcame that hiccup by recording saves in his next three outings. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time s he went 4-2, 2.70 in 70 games, with 37 saves. He struck out 89 batters in 70 innings. In 2019, he had an even better season and returned to the All-Star Game. On September 9th, however, he got into a clubhouse fight with set-up man Kyle Crick, and while Crick got the worst of it, needing surgery to repair a damaged tendon in his finger, both players were fined. There had been a lot of tension in the team's bullpen that year, involving Crick, fellow reliever Keone Kela, Vazquez and bullpen coach Euclides Rojas as Pittsburgh had a rough season. Things got a lot worse for him on September 17th, as he was arrested by Pittsburgh police for soliciting a child for sexual acts and was denied bail. The charges were considered extremely serious and he was immediately placed on administrative leave by the Commissioner's office. The Pirates also further distanced themselves from Vazquez by immediately cleaning out his locker and removing all images of him at PNC Park. The charges resulted from an investigation that lasted a month, after the victim's mother brought compromising pictures to the police's attention. According to information that became public after the arrest, the victim was from Scottdale, PA and was just 13 when the alleged activity started in 2017; she had since moved to Fort Myers, FL, where Vazquez had continued to have inappropriate contact with her. Worse for Vazquez, if found guilty, he could face possible deportation back to Venezuela, although given the current political and security climate in his native country, that was a remote possibility.

Things got even worse for Vazquez following the 2019 season as on November 19th, prosecutors filed a bevy of additional charges against him, including possession of child pornography, unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of a minor. These charges stemmed from the examination of his personal computer and iPhone seized during the original investigation. He pleaded not guilty to the charges but was denied bail. On May 21, 2021, he was found guilty on 15 counts of sexual misconduct, including statutory sexual assault as his defense that he believed the girl was older than she was did not convince the jury. In August, he was sentenced to two to four years in state prison.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL All-Star (2018 & 2019)
  • 30 Saves Seasons: 1 (2018)


Further Reading[edit]

  • Michael Braun: "Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star Felipe Vazquez admits to sex with 13-year-old in driveway, complaint says", USA Today, September 18, 2019. [1]

Related Sites[edit]