Since being acquired prior to the 2021 season, Alex Vesia has been one of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ most effective relief pitchers.
From 2021-22, Vesia pitched 94.1 innings for the Dodgers, posting a 2.19 ERA, 3.01 FIP, 1.06 WHIP, 34.8% strikeout rate and 1.7 WAR. However, this season, the 27-year-old has thrown 10.1 innings with a 7.84 ERA and his strikeout rate has dropped to 25.4%.
The Dodgers made the decision to option Vesia to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday, and they are hoping it will provide him with the opportunity to get back on track.
“I think he was falling behind a lot to both left and right, wasn’t able to finish guys with the breaking ball or the fastball,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained. “Just wasn’t as consistent as we need him to be, or as we’ve seen him.
“He needs to catch his breath. I believe we’re still a better ballclub with him on the team, so what can we do in the short term to get him back to being the pitcher we know he’s capable of?”
Vesia also took a trip to Triple-A in 2021 after struggling to begin the season. Upon getting recalled, he became the go-to left-hander out of the bullpen and a high-leverage option.
“I think there’s a little bit of a different circumstance in the sense that he’s more proven now, so this is a surprise to all of us,” answered Roberts when asked if the current situation mirrored that. “I think it’s still in the best interest for Alex.
“When he did go down, he embraced it, got better, and came back and was lights-out, so that’s our hope.”
One possibility for Vesia’s struggles is the addition of the new pitch clock to Major League Baseball. Last year, he was the Dodgers’ slowest-working reliever at 24.6 seconds between each pitch. He now has 10 fewer seconds to prepare himself.
“I don’t think that’s an excuse Alex would use and I don’t see it as a reason,” Roberts said. “I think guys from Spring Training through the month of April have had a chance to adjust, and most have. So I don’t think that’s the reason.”
Victor González played role in optioning Alex Vesia
Behind Caleb Ferguson, it has been Victor González who has stepped up as the second left-hander in the Dodgers bullpen. In 2020, González was one of the most important pieces, but he struggled over the next two seasons in terms of staying healthy and performance.
Now, the 27-year-old seems to have returned to form, which helped lead to the decision to give Vesia more time to figure out his issues. “Yeah, Victor has performed,” Roberts said.
“I think the thing with Victor is we challenged him on being in the strike zone more. His stuff is electric; the fastball, slider below, and an occasional changeup. This year he’s shown that he can be in the zone more, and he’s gotten quick outs, gotten left out, gotten right out. Right now, Victor is the right option.”
González has only thrown four innings, but is yet to allow a run while striking out a third of hitters faced, and he has seen a significant increase in fastball velocity.
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