Post-surgery Vespi dedicated winter to more strenuous workouts

SARASOTA, Fla. – Orioles reliever Nick Vespi was eager to plunge into a normal offseason workout program. To be full-go over the winter rather than shut down or slowed by pain that led to a surgical procedure in January 2023.

Vespi began making the short drive to TBT Training in Boca Raton, Fla., joining teammate Coby Mayo for sessions with Tom Flynn, the facility’s director of strength and conditioning.

“Mayo has been working out with him in the past and it’s two exits down the road,” Vespi said this week, “so I figured I’d try it out and everything was great.”

Hernia surgery a year ago forced Vespi into a less aggressive routine. He vied for a job in camp and made nine appearances with the club, the first resulting in three scoreless innings on June 30 against the Twins. His last outing in the majors was Aug. 20 in Oakland.

Vespi is trying again to make the Opening Day roster. It may not happen, but his body is geared for it.

“In the past, I’ve kind of been guarding my injury a little bit, so I’d have to do more like rehab workouts instead of actual strengthening,” Vespi said. “I got the surgery last year, everything felt great, so I decided to go to a trainer and work on overall athleticism. Just strength and conditioning, doing stuff like that.”

Vespi goes way back with Mayo. Younger brother Ben and Mayo were teammates during their teenage years. Ben is a senior at the University of Central Florida.

The family connection led to the TBT training.

“I always knew about Tom and finally gave him a chance,” Vespi said, “and it was awesome.”

A pitcher isn’t doing the exact same lifting as Mayo, the corner infielder blessed with tremendous power.

“Yeah, the kid’s legit,” Vespi said. “He’s good at everything, so we’re in for something special.”

Mayo has risen to 30th prospect status in MLB Pipeline rankings and would have a better chance to play in the majors on March 28 if he wasn’t in an organization stocked with young infield talent. The Orioles intend to play him mostly at third base in camp despite having Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg on the roster.

“I always said, there’s no logjam if you go out there and perform,” Mayo said. “And over the years they’ve already traded three infield prospects with Darell (Hernaiz), (César) Prieto and now Joey (Ortiz). I think you’ve just got to go out and do your work. If you perform, they’re going to make a spot for you.”

Or send you somewhere else, though the Orioles seem more inclined to hold onto him and figure out a way to get him at-bats. There’s no rush to find a solution.

Ortiz always seemed like more of a trade chip because Henderson, Westburg and Jackson Holliday left little room in the middle infield, and the Orioles retained Ramón Urías and Jorge Mateo for possible utility roles. They also have Connor Norby, a second baseman who batted .290/.359/.483 with 40 doubles, three triples, 21 home runs and 92 RBIs last year in 138 games with Triple-A Norfolk.

Being a plus-plus defender at shortstop with highly improved offensive production made Ortiz a popular figure in trade talks, and the Brewers got him in the Corbin Burnes trade.

“I always have confidence in him going out there and reaching his full potential,” Mayo said. “Really hard-working kid, great person. Really talented with the glove. He’s definitely the best infielder I’ve ever watched in person, and I think he’s going to do great things in Milwaukee.”

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