Claymores coach fired after pitcher injury

Updated: February 14, 2019

By Hamish Campbell

Evening News Staff Writer


The Scottish Claymores have fired veteran pitching coach George Mooney for allowing SP Jorge Vázquez to start a game against San Juan on just one day’s rest, leading to what appears to be a season-ending forearm injury.

Mooney was summoned to meet with Manager Hayato Sasaki on Friday morning at the team hotel in Havana, as the Claymores prepared to begin a three-game series with the Leones. The meeting was brief and to the point, sources said. Mooney was told he no longer had a job, to gather his things and vacate the premises.

General Manager Vic Caleca attended the meeting via Skype, from his compound in Central Indiana, but let Sasaki do the talking.

“This, clearly, is an unfortunate turn of events,” Sasaki told reporters at a press briefing Friday afternoon. “George Mooney has served this franchise well for the past four years, but the events surrounding the game on May 31 cannot be ignored, and I told Mr. Mooney that I could no longer trust his judgment. Therefore, he could no longer work as my pitching coach.”

Mooney, who has been openly skeptical of Sasaki’s embrace of sabermetrics and statistics in his management philosophy, didn’t hold back when reached for comment Friday night.

“That little pipsqueak can’t trust my judgment?” he sputtered. “Let me tell you something – I’ve forgotten more about baseball than that calculator-carrying little #$!@ will ever know.”

Of course, critics would point out that most pitching coaches would have remembered that it’s not a good idea to let a pitcher start games within two days of each other.

And yet, that’s precisely what happened.

Teammates of Vázquez said the young pitcher had grown obsessed with his reputation as being injury prone. He missed substantial playing time in both 2026 and 2027 with a variety of ailments, and missed a week in April with a strained oblique.

“Jorge kept saying he was in great shape and could pitch more games, like the old-time guys who could start on back-to-back days and that he was going to show everybody just how tough he was,” said middle reliever Mauro Rocha.

“We kept telling him that he didn’t need to prove anything, but he was determined. He went in and talked to George (Mooney) like every day telling him he could start more, but nothing seemed to come of it.”

However, sources said, Mooney privately bought into the idea that modern pitchers are too coddled and should get back to throwing complete games and starting on shorter rest.

He apparently saw a chance to put his philosophy to the test during the San Juan series. 

Shortly after arriving in Puerto Rico, Sasaki was called home to Japan due to a health scare with his elderly mother, and in a hasty phone call told Moore he would be acting manager while he was away.

On May 31 – just two days after the series opener, in which Vázquez had thrown 109 pitches in seven innings – Mooney penciled the 24-year-old in to start again.

Trainer Daryl Cash objected strenuously, as did several of Vázquez’s teammates. Staff ace Francisco Robles, in fact, tried to call Sasaki and ask him to intervene, but couldn’t reach him. 

Mooney brushed off the objections and let Vázquez take the mound. Although the pitcher looked shaky in the first, yielding a two-run homer to Coqui 2B Shigekazu Shimizu, he settled down and pitched well through the second and third innings.

However, after Shimizu led off the fourth with a single off a hard slider, Vázquez grabbed his forearm in obvious pain, bringing Cash and Mooney quickly out of the dugout. 

Vázquez was escorted from the mound and taken directly to the visiting clubhouse. After the game, Cash said the young pitcher had been taken to a local hospital for an MRI exam, which showed the injury was serious.

“The only treatment for this is rest,” Cash said. “We think he’ll be out three to four months.”

That essentially ended Vázquez’s season, which had started with so much promise. After spending an injury-shortened 2027 in the bullpen, Vázquez started this season in the Claymores’ rotation and had established himself as a reliable No. 3 starter with a 6-4 won/loss record and a 3.00 ERA.

Now, though, he’ll spend the rest of the year on the DL and then start rehab.

“I’ll be back – don’t you worry about that,” Vázquez said in a statement issued by his agent, Hurst Brickleby. “I’ll be back and better than ever.”

Vázquez’s spot on the roster will be filled by 32-year-old SP Ernest Singleton, who was called up from AAA Aberdeen. Singleton has some big-league experience with the Manchester Maulers from 2020-2023, but has largely toiled in the minors.

“This will be a chance for Ernest to show us what he can do,” Sasaki said. “Sadly, it comes at the expense of Jorge, who was off to such a fine start. But we cannot choose our circumstances, and we have much confidence that Ernest will play well for us.”

Meanwhile, it seems likely that this episode will spell the end of Mooney’s baseball career.

“Um, I think ‘toxic’ would be the word to describe him, at this point,” one team source said. “Anyone who’d touch him now would have to be crazy.”

Mooney disagreed.

“The end? Are you crazy?” he asked. “This crazy damn club may not know it, but I’ve got a lot to offer any team. You’ll see. I’ll be back.”

Just not in Scotland, though, where a search for a new pitching coach is already underway.

“We have a number of feelers out,” General Manager Caleca said Friday via email. “We’re confident we’ll have a very capable replacement – who knows how to handle a pitching staff without blowing their arms out – in short order.”