SAN FRANCISCO – When the Giants moved to sign free reliever agent Jake McGee, it left the Los Angeles Dodgers looking for a left-handed replacement in their bullpen.
It turned out to be Alex Vesia, who had been operating under local anonymity for four years in Cal State East Bay in Hayward.
Vesia, 24, arrived from the Miami Marlins on February 12, three days after McGee agreed to sign a two-year, $ 7 million deal with the giants.
The Dodgers traded in Miami seasoned feeder Dylan Floro in exchange for Vezia, who showed 0-1 and gave up nine hits and three home runs in 4 1/3 innings as a rookie in 2020. The Dodgers were right-handed Kyle Hurt.
“It was actually a real shock. I had no idea what the Marlins organization was even thinking about it, ”Vesia told reporters at the time. “It took two or three days for it to take root and everything.”
Like McGee, Vesia is left-handed and relies on mid-90s fastball. He went 3-1 in the regular season with an average run of 2.25 and 51 strikeouts in 40 innings. He has split twice in the National League division series against the Giants, losing an eighth inning home run to Brandon Crawford in Game 1 at Oracle Park in 2/3 innings and no runs in 2/3 innings of the game. 4.
Rather, he is a specialist in dealing with left-handed slugs. Left-handers hit .123 against Vesia, and right-handers only hit .129 – although five of his six surrendering home runs came against right-handers.
“If you look at the squad, Alex Vesia has proven himself to be the guy I trust who pulls out the left and right,” manager Dave Roberts said in an interview with the Orange County Register in September. “It’s scattered over large areas.”
Vesia was selected by Miami in the ninth round of the 2018 draft after a record 24-17 and a 3.01 average run in East Bay.
“His work ethic was off the charts when he was here, in his 80s, in his early 90s, so you thought he had a chance,” said East Bay Coach Mike Cummins. “Three years later, making the playoffs for the Dodgers? It probably sounds a little far-fetched, but once he got into minor league baseball with the Marlins, the lights went out. ”
Vesia, 24, flew through the Minors at warp speed, posting an 11-2 record, 1.57 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 109 innings in two seasons. His rookie season in Miami was largely thwarted by being put on the COVID-19 list in August and spending three and a half weeks in quarantine.
Cummins, who took over the program in Vesia’s junior class, saw the left-hander grappling with expectations as a junior before excelling in high school.
“I think he put a lot of pressure on himself in my first year here to get into the military,” Cummins said. “He went for a walk with too many guys, tried to chew to get the perfect result. We talked after that before his graduation year, you need to relax and trust your abilities. Just go out and let the game come to you. ”
Vesia responded with an 8-2 score. After a few games early in the season with Vesia starting and East Bay losing the last lead, Cummins began leading Vesia in the third or fourth inning to finish.
“I had to convince him that this is what we’re going to start doing,” Cummins said. “He said,“ What are you talking about? “I said it’s better if you were there in the ninth, finishing the game, and we were already coughing. He understood.”
It just so happened that on a weekend series, Vesia would sometimes pitch twice, stretch out for an extended performance on one day, and then get close on the next.
“It just took off,” Cummins said.
Cummins said he sees a different Vesias in his current role in brief relief.
“He has more emotions. I think he put it like this: “Okay, I’ll go, do 15 passes, and that’s my role,” Cummins said. “I try to watch every time he makes a pitch, and usually communicate with him after every walk. It was fun to watch. ”