It was the fifth inning of a game for Triple-A Norfolk at home on April 20 versus Durham. Terrin Vavra, playing center field that night, lined an RBI single to right to give the Tides a 3-0 lead.
Added to the Orioles 40-man roster over the winter, he was off to a good start for the Tides, batting over .300 through his first 13 Triple-A games. Then came another hit. Now that he was on the 40-man, maybe that first call to the big leagues would not be that far away.
“Felt like I was seeing the ball pretty well, our team was winning and we were having a lot of fun,” Vavra remembered yesterday during an interview at high Single-A Aberdeen’s Ripken Stadium. “As I was rounding first on a ball I was going to try and go to second on, my hamstring grabbed on me. Had a Grade II strain in there that took some time to heal. We wanted to make sure that we gave it the adequate space to heal so it is not something that lingers or comes back.”
So Vavra has played this week in minor league rehab games with Aberdeen and last night played nine innings for the first time this week. He said he expects to rejoin Norfolk for its series beginning Tuesday at Nashville.
Vavra dealt with some back issues last season that limited him to 40 games at Double-A Bowie, where he posted an .818 OPS. The Colorado Rockies' third round pick out of the University of Minnesota in 2018, he was acquired by the Orioles on Aug. 30, 2020 in the deal that sent pitcher Mychal Givens to the Rockies. The O's received Vavra along with Tyler Nevin and a player to be named, who turned out to be young Dominican outfielder Mishael Deson.
Despite not getting in even a half season of games at Bowie, the O’s bumped him to Triple-A this year, and he was batting .327/.435/.423/.858 with 10 walks and seven strikeouts at the time of the hamstring injury. He has a career .406 OBP and .877 OPS in 210 career minor league games.
“I think I had a lot of good people to learn from that have played at that (Triple-A) level, and a lot of good coaches up there (at Norfolk). Just trying to take one pitch at a time and know it’s a long season with ups and downs. Keep a level head, and I think that put me in a good position.
“It was frustrating missing a lot of time with the 50 games or so I played last year. I thought I played all right. I think there are always areas to improve, and I felt like I was striking out too much last year. That is something I wanted to cut down. I made some good swing decisions last year and I wanted to keep that rolling. I also wanted to focus this winter on getting my body right. That (hamstring) injury was a bummer, but I felt like I did everything right leading up to that and it’s just part of the game.”
Vavra is part of a family that has quite a background in the game. His dad, Joe, was hitting coach for the Minnesota Twins for much of his time there between 2006-2017 and also worked for the Detroit Tigers. Two older brothers, Tanner and Trey, were late-round draft picks who played pro ball and are now college coaches. Vavra can remember helping players like Joe Mauer take part in pregame tee work and watching them in batting practice when his dad was with the Twins. And while his dad was away a lot in his younger days, Joe has spent time this year watching Terrin play in both Norfolk and this week at Aberdeen.
His pops got there as a coach, and now the younger Vavra's call to the majors could be close.
“Yeah, I mean, it is something we all keep working for," he said. "It’s close, but it’s one of the things where it’s not my decision and never will be. So have to focus on what I can control and take each pitch like it’s the last one at each level.”
Vavra said he loves being part of the O’s organization after the trade. He said he noticed in Norfolk that players were genuinely happy for each other earlier this year when someone would get that call to join the Orioles.
“The limited experience I have seeing those calls, I didn’t see anyone resentful or anything with our organization. I saw players encouraging players, and I think that is what makes this organization so special. There are a lot of good guys that want the best for each other. I know that is not always the case in other organizations. To be able to experience that the first few weeks when I was up there, it motivates me to get back. There are people I want to see get that call and there are guys that want to see me get that call. That is encouraging and that is exciting."
I asked him how the Orioles have developed such a close feeling among their players on the farm.
“Honestly, I came from another organization and I know that it is easy to say those things and not actually mean it. But we generally have some great people, you know, off the baseball field as well as on it. I think that is a testament to character and the people the Orioles bring in. That is something they are looking for, guys that have their teammates’ back."
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