Vasquez recovering from emergency brain surgery
Headaches lead to life-threatening procedure for left-hander
SEATTLE -- Anthony Vasquez beat some long odds once already by reaching the Major Leagues for a brief stint as a starter with the Mariners in 2011, but the youngster from Texas won a far bigger battle over the weekend when he came out of emergency brain surgery in Phoenix with his life still intact.
Doctors discovered Vasquez, 26, had a ruptured blood vessel in his brain and performed 5 1/2 hours of surgery Friday after the former 18th-round Draft pick felt some problems with his vision while working out at the Mariners' training complex in Peoria, Ariz., where he was recovering from a shoulder injury.
"He's a miracle," said his father, Rudy, who is a scout in the Angels' organization. "We have a strong faith in Jesus and Anthony's faith has always been strong as well. There's no other way to say it. When the neurosurgeon came out he said, 'Your son should be dead, but he's not.'"
By Monday afternoon, Rudy was driving Anthony from Phoenix to their home in San Antonio, Texas, still amazed by the positive outcome of what had been such a swift and potentially tragic situation.
The former USC standout felt some headaches about 10 days earlier, according to his father, but didn't think anything was wrong until he had some vision problem and dizziness on Wednesday during a throwing session.
After tests showed a lesion in his brain, things began moving quickly and when doctors performed surgery Friday morning at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, they found a ruptured arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which is a life-threatening tangle of blood vessels in the brain.
Yet by Monday, Vasquez had been discharged and was headed home with his dad, who said doctors indicated he should stay away from heavy lifting for 6-8 weeks, but should be fine to resume a normal life after that. And, yeah, if all goes according to plan, he could be pitching again by next spring.
"It was frightening, but it's an amazing story," Rudy said. "They said he dodged a silver bullet. It's unbelievable. We know it happens every day to somebody in this world. This time it was us and we're just thankful he's OK."
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik talked with the family by phone every day and was relieved by the outcome.
"What's happened there is pretty remarkable," Zduriencik said. "You think life is great and all of a sudden this kid is going in for brain surgery. But he's a terrific kid with tremendous faith and a strong family.
"They handled this thing as remarkably as anybody could handle it. It's a remarkable story, this young kid had such a tragic thing happen and it's amazing today he's driving home. How do you figure? They're very, very blessed. It'll be some kind of family gathering in San Antonio when they get home."
Mariners fans will remember Vasquez as the rookie who had a rough go in the final six weeks of the 2011 season when he was called up following midseason trades of Doug Fister and Erik Bedard. The soft-tossing lefty won his Major League debut in Cleveland, but wound up going 1-6 with an 8.90 ERA in seven starts.
He got off to a strong start this past season in Triple-A Tacoma before the shoulder problem started cropping up. He was finally shut down on June 4 with a 5-4 record and 6.53 ERA and has been rehabbing in Peoria ever since.
Rudy is such a positive thinker that he says the situation ultimately might help Anthony's shoulder recover, now that he'll be forced to rest. And as a career baseball man, with two sons who've played the game at a high level, he isn't counting Anthony out of another shot in the Majors some day.
"He had a rough run of it in his short Major League time, but he's confident he can pitch up there," Rudy said. "Like a lot of young guys, he got up there and got beat up. But as an 18th-round Draft pick, he beat the odds once and he's confident he can do it again."
Which, of course, was the least of the family's concerns just a few days earlier.
"Who knows what plans the Mariners have, but he's just hoping for another shot," said Rudy. "But we'll take everything else now as secondary. We're a big baseball family and baseball is everything in our worldly lives. But we have a higher belief. Life is precious.
"There's that old adage, you never want to bury your child," he said. "I've been worried sick. I understand it happens every day to somebody and we'll accept whatever the Lord does. But we sure are glad it's turned out this way."