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Finding success abroad – Part I: Javier Avendano

Finding success abroad –  Part I: Javier Avendano

August 5, 2012

Venezuelan right-hander, Javier Avendano, has become the Ace of the Vancouver Canadians this season. (photo credit: Vancouver Sun)

As the sporting world is current fixated on the 2012 Olympic Games in London, we can easily turn inwards to see the impact of sports globalization on the Blue Jays organization. This two-part story will feature a pair of Venezuelan stars that are leading the charge for the Canadians on the mound and at the plate. The careers of Javier Avendano and Balbino Fuenmayor began to intertwine during their teen-years in the Venezuelan Winter League. And now, thousands of miles away from their native land, both players are finding success with the Blue Jays, specifically the Vancouver Canadians.

Javier Avendano

Quick Facts:
Position: Right Handed Pitcher (Starting)
Number: 29
Height: 6’ 3’’ Weight: 180 Pounds
Home Town: Maraciabo, Venezuela
Draft: 2007 – Selected by the St. Louis Cardinals as a non-drafted free agent
2011 – Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays

The 21-year-old righty has started nine games for the C’s so far, posting an impressive 4-1 record.
In the 47.0 innings pitched, Avendano struck out 50 batters, while maintaining a stellar 1.53 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. His wins and strikeouts leads all pitchers on the team and his ERA and WHIP are second on the squad.
JaysProspects was able to sit down with the young pitcher before a homestand vs. Salem-Kaizer, a series which the C’s swept the Volcanoes.

Q: How’s the season going for you so far?
Javier: It’s going really well. The team has won the games I’ve started. So I feel really good starting games. I feel great. Playing in Vancouver is also incredible.  People come to the stadium and they make a lot of noise, and that becomes really good for us.

Q: You’ve had a great season so far, a 4-1 record with a 1.53 ERA, how have you been able to find such success?
Javier: I’m just trying to do the same thing as when I was a reliever. Try to attack with my fastball and enjoy my game. It’s the best you can do in the field. Just enjoy whatever you do. If you were a singer or actor; if you enjoy your work, you will do a great job.

Q: For the fans out there curious with your stuff, what type of pitches do you command?
Javier: My pitch repertoire includes a fastball, change up, curveball, and sinker. After my fastball, my best pitch is the curveball, but I’m working hard on the change up because I think the change up is the best pitch after the fastball. For now, I have more confidence in my curveball, I think I can throw my curveball as a strike whenever I want. Change up is something different, but I’m working on that.

Q: What are some of the specific things you’ve tried to improve during the off-season?
Javier: In the off season, I’ll be playing for another team as I will be playing winter ball in Venezuela. It’s professional baseball that is comparable to the Triple A level. Sometimes I pitch against big leaguers. For instance, I’ve pitched against Carlos Gonzales and Asdrúbal Cabrera. I prefer to play winter ball in Venezuela because it’s a harder level, I don’t receive too many innings because I’m a rookie. But the innings I do get, I try to enjoy because that is a good experience and pitching against big leaguers can help me when I come here.

Q: Since you have played in the winter league in Venezuela, did you know Balbino well back then?
Javier: He played on another team, before [we] just said hello and bye. Now he’s a really good friend. He’s funny, he’s a funny guy. A fun time for you. I like him because he’s a really good player too. He plays hard all the time.

Q: In terms of professional players, is there someone you aspire to be?
Javier: My favorite is Tim Lincecum. He’s never afraid. I also like Felix Hernanez. He’s a really good player and a really good person. He’s working hard all the time. And you know K-Rod, Francisco Rodriguez, I like him too.

Q: Growing up, did you play any other sports besides baseball?
Javier: Before I was playing tennis in Venezuela. I like soccer too. I’m not a really good player at soccer, but I like soccer. Yeah, before I played tennis and baseball, we don’t have too many opportunities in Venezuela for tennis so *chuckles.*

One thing that Javier does need to focus on is his health. After suffering a shoulder injury, he was limited to just 14.1 innings in 2011. However, now that he is fully healthy, he is looking forward to sharping his raw talents into a Major League pitcher.

In Part II, Javier’s countryman, Balbino Fuenmayor discusses his current season, as well as his new found motivation for the game of baseball.