February 8, 2014
With the 2014 season merely weeks away, right-handed pitcher Javier Avendano is prepared to take the next step in his professional baseball career.
After beginning his 2012 campaign in Lansing as a member of the Lugnuts’ bullpen, Avendano found success after transitioning to starting mid-season with the Vancouver Canadians. The Maracaibo, Venezuela native continued to make strides in Lansing this past season, finishing tied for first in wins with eight and second in strikeouts with 99 en route to a rotation-best 3.76 ERA while emerging as the Lugnuts’ ace.
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Commenting on the transition Avendano took to become a starter, Lansing Lugnuts manager John Tamargo Jr. discussed the differences between what he has seen from the right-hander over the past two seasons.
“With Javier it’s getting him to develop his pitches more, especially his breaking ball,” stated Tamargo Jr. “[In 2012] he could come in for an inning or two and throw a bunch of fastballs. Now, as a starter, he has been focused on developing his pitches so he can stretch out later in games.”
Avendano seconded his manager’s thoughts.
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“Being a reliever is different because you have to be ready every day and when you get to pitch you have to throw all you have because you know it’ll only be for one or two innings,” he said. “Starting is totally different because you have to learn to stretch your pitches out. You have to come out and throw hard, but not too hard so you can stretch out for five or six innings.
“You have to turnover lineups as you see the same hitters three or four times a game and they make adjustments based on what you’re throwing so you have to learn to command your pitches more.”
The transition worked out great for both Avendano and the organization, as he went 8-1 with a 1.27 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 78 innings of work in the Northwest League en route to earning Vancouver team MVP honors.
“Being named team MVP felt great especially being on a good team,” he said. “The day they told me I was MVP was a day I’ll never forget, because it made me feel like I made a difference on a good team.”
Another great memory Avendano took away from his Northwest League experience was winning his first ever championship as a member of the 2012 Vancouver Canadians. The right-hander especially enjoyed pitching in the championship series.
“Winning the championship was great; I had never won one before,” he said. “It was three hard games against Boise and it was incredible to win. The last game was the best game of my career and to get a ring was wonderful.”
Prior to 2012, Avendano was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, where he spent four seasons playing games for their Venezuelan Summer League, Gulf Coast League, and New York-Penn League affiliates.
“My time in the Cardinals organization was great. I signed when I was 16 and played four seasons with them starting in Venezuela,” he said. “It was a really great time and they treated me well. I don’t have anything bad to say about their organization.”
After his time in the Cardinals organization, Avendano joined the Blue Jays via the 2011 Rule 5 Draft — a moment that he describes as both exciting and nerve-wracking.
“I was nervous signing with Toronto,” Avendano said. “I had friends in the Cardinals organization and coming to the Blue Jays was hard because I didn’t know any of the guys, but joining a new team was a great opportunity for me and I’m enjoying the experience that was presented to me.”
Ready for the next step in his career, Avendano is preparing for what’s to come in 2014 by doing some extra conditioning in Venezuela this off-season.
“I’m planning on conditioning my body more this off-season because I’m planning on playing at a higher level next year,” he said. “I have friends that used to be scouts that help me condition every off-season and I’m taking a greater focus on that this year.”