Over the years, I think we’ve all learned to never doubt Andrew Friedman. Every season, he pulls off some sort of move that has us all questioning how he got away with it. Although it’s early still, we may have our next head-scratcher.
Back in February, the Dodgers traded Dylan Floro to the Marlins. In exchange, they acquired left-handed pitcher Alex Vesia and a minor-league prospect. At the time of the trade, Vesia had only 4 1⁄3 innings of big-league action under his belt. In that short time, he owned an ERA of 18.69.
Vesia didn’t begin the season in LA’s bullpen. He made his Dodgers debut on May 1, allowing four runs to score after issuing four walks. In his first eight games with the Dodgers, Vesia posted a 7.27 ERA and issued 11 walks in 8 2⁄3 innings. Vesia simply didn’t look great and he went sent back to OKC at the end of the month.
It was in Oklahoma City in which Vesia really began to turn things around. He appeared in nine games for the Triple-A squad, throwing nine combined innings. The 25-year-old allowed only one run on three hits. However, that’s not what stands out. During his nine innings of work, Vesia struck out 19 (!!!), including a stretch in which he struck out 15 in a row (!!!!!).
After a dominant month in Triple-A, Vesia was called back up and has shown why exactly the Dodgers traded for him. Over his last 13 games, Vesia has allowed one run on only five hits in 14 2⁄3 innings of action. He also has 20 strikeouts and only three walks. After struggling with his command through his first month, Vesia has been one of the best strike throwers in all of baseball. In addition, he’s one of the toughest pitchers to get a hit off of.
On the season, opponents are hitting .115 against him, the lowest number among all pitchers in baseball with at least 24 innings pitched.
“He’s more comfortable,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Last year was his first stint in the big leagues. Come to a new ball club. You’re trying to fit in, compete and perform. It took a couple times up here to get comfortable. He’s found his confidence and swagger. His performance has been consistent. He’s been a huge add for us.”
There’s no question the Dodgers thought highly of Vesia, that’s why they traded a proven arm in Floro to acquire him. With that being said, I don’t think the Dodgers envisioned him being one of their high-leverage arms as they make a push for the postseason.
“He’s right there,” Roberts said when asked about Vesia being a high-leverage arm. “He wasn’t really on the radar early on in the year, but he’s played himself into that role. Alex is right there at the top.”
Not only that, he’s the Dodgers’ best left-handed option out of the bullpen currently. Victor Gonzalez, Scott Alexander and Garrett Cleavinger are all on the IL, but none of those pitchers have performed well this season.
Austin Barnes was asked about catching Vesia, who also added that he’s just more comfortable on the mound now.
“He does what he wants to do on the mound,” Barnes said. “It’s a little bit more clear for him. He trusts his fastball. He’s throwing his off-speed at the right time. When he’s throwing with confidence, he throws the ball really well.”
In a year that has featured so many ups and downs in LA’s bullpen, Vesia earning himself a role has been one of the more pleasant surprises.