Terrin Vavra returned to his locker yesterday morning as neighbor Tyler Nevin wrapped up an interview about the rookie, the last compliment reaching his ears. Vavra never turned to watch, never acted like he overheard it. He just went about his business until he couldn’t ignore it any longer.
Nevin didn’t let the moment pass quietly, telling Vavra afterward that he had just finished treating his friend with extreme kindness. Vavra knew he was the main topic after hearing the word “trade.”
They arrived together at the 2020 deadline, when the Orioles sent reliever Mychal Givens to the Rockies. Never teammates in the minors until changing organizations.
“Got to know him in instructs, spring training, stuff like that,” Nevin said, “but as far as on the team, those first few weeks in Norfolk were our first experience doing that.”
Nevin quickly became more familiar with Vavra’s abilities as a hitter. He’s studied enough plate appearances to feel confident that the on-base skills wouldn’t taper in the majors.
Vavra built a five-game hitting streak that ended yesterday after playing only half the game. He was 7-for-15 during that stretch, reached base in seven consecutive plate appearances and 12 of 20, and is taking a .480 OBP into tonight’s series opener against the Blue Jays.
“He will continue to do that. That is his game,” Nevin said.
“I think he’s the perfect table-setter for the lineup. Come in and get you a clutch knock. Just consistently, you can count on him to have good at-bats, have a good approach, and be prepared for the pitcher he’s about to face. Just a real professional hitter. That’s how I like to put it.
“His power numbers, he’ll tell you that’s not his game, but it’s making a pitcher grind, and in the lineup, you need a guy like that.”
“This is exactly what he was doing in Norfolk and Double-A, as well,” said reliever Nick Vespi. “He’s extremely patient, gets his pitch and puts the ball in play.”
Manager Brandon Hyde batted Vavra fifth in two games and yesterday elevated him to third. Wanting the left-handed hitters higher in the order.
Wanting to tap deeper into Vavra’s knack for getting on base, which led to a .410 OBP to go with his .306 average in 244 minor league games.
Vavra just needs to maintain the same approach and ignore where he’s playing, as he’s always done.
“I’m trying,” he said before striking out and scorching a ball to left fielder Greg Allen. “Each at-bat’s different, each pitcher is different. There’s guys in Triple-A that have good stuff who are going to be at this level, and vice-versa up here. Just trying to take advantage of each opportunity and not make too much of it and do what I can to help our team win.”
Teammates also marvel at his powers of concentration, which come in handy with his first baby due to arrive later this month.
“I was telling him, I’ve seen a few debuts now and I don’t know if I’ve seen anybody be able to handle everything as well as he has to this point,” Nevin said. “It’s just a testament to his preparation and his character.”
“That’s who he is,” Vespi said. “He’s a super calm kid. He approaches everything super calmly, and he’s doing exactly that.”
Perhaps Vavra can keep his locker for the rest of the season, separating from the team only while on paternity leave. Nevin is trying to hold onto his roster spot, having made 36 starts at third base, six at first and three in the outfield.
The Rockies trade already is a win for the Orioles, and it’s strengthened their relationship.
“He’s a good friend of mine. I consider him a very good friend at this point,” Nevin said.
“We definitely got closer once we got traded. We were always good buddies over with the Rockies, but we had never played with each other, and when we first got traded it was just us two together, so we spent a lot of time together there. We do have that bond at this point.”