Mariners pitcher praises Phoenix neurosurgeon for saving his life

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Anthony Vasquez By Jennifer Thomas Anthony Vasquez By Jennifer Thomas

PEORIA, Ariz. -- With a crack of the bat the Seattle Mariners are back on the field. But it's not just spring training here in Peoria, other members of the organization, like Anthony Vasquez, are here to work on their game.

"Just two to three hours a day rehabbing, just working out, trying to get in shape," said Vasquez of his days at the Peoria Sports Complex.

He's a starting left-handed pitcher who hurt his shoulder last summer. So Vasquez came to the Valley last fall to get better. One day his vision got worse.

"It was just peripheral -- at about 45 degrees over my right eye," he said.

His fuzzy focus was then followed by headaches and that November an MRI showed doctors the problem.

"What Anthony had was a very uncommon condition called an AVM, which basically means you have a tangle of blood vessels," said Dr. Robert Spetzler, director of Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. "This is very fragile and when it breaks it bleeds, and that's what happened to Anthony."

Spetzler performed the six-hour surgery to fix the problem that same week. Three months later, Vasquez is back to rehab, and thanking his lucky stars that seemed to align.

"Just the fact that I was injured to begin with and rehabbing right down the road from the hospital, and right down the road from the best doctor in the world!" he said.

"He came to the place that has probably done more operations on this than anybody else in the world and he clearly benefited from that," Spetzler said.
So Arizona will always mean a lot to Vasquez. Now if he could only fix that shoulder.

"The brain was the easy part! Now my shoulder has to get better ... but it helped save my life so I'm not going to complain too much," he said.

Vasquez had a checkup with Spetzler last week. He'll have another one in three years, and in the meantime he'll work on returning to pitching later this year.