Vespi keeps impressing in bid for Orioles bullpen spot

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Nick Vespi will get a few days off following his two-inning stint yesterday in Bradenton, where he struck out five batters and received some playful compliments from a teammate this morning for being in beast mode.

Vespi has allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings over his six spring appearances, and he’s struck out nine batters. He hasn’t issued a walk. Opponents are batting .160.

“I know that he’s been working on his two-seamer that goes the other way,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “His four-seamer, cutter, slider kind of go one direction and he’s working on a fastball that goes the other way to keep lefties honest. And that’s been much improved. But his strike-throwing ability, the way he can go multiple innings, able to get both sides out … really loved how he threw the ball yesterday and we’re going to keep giving him a look.”

The Pirates’ Matt Fraizer singled with one out in the eighth yesterday and Vespi got a called third strike on the next two hitters. The inning began with a swinging strikeout against Grant Koch, who was fed fastballs, sinkers, a curveball and a slider.

Sergio Alcántara grounded out to end the game and give Vespi the save after the left-hander struck out Jake Lamb looking and Dustin Peterson swinging.

“Everything obviously was working,” Vespi said. “I was just attacking, trying to let them put the ball in play, and I was getting a lot of swings and misses, so it was a lot of fun.”

Vespi averages 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 34 games with the Orioles and 10.0 in 199 games in the minors, where he’s registered a 2.74 ERA and 1.079 WHIP in 387 1/3 innings.

An offseason spent working out at TBT Training in Boca Raton, Fla., where he joined teammate Coby Mayo for sessions with Tom Flynn, the facility’s director of strength and conditioning, got Vespi in peak condition on his report date in Sarasota. Flynn attended yesterday’s game.

There’s an apparent correlation between a new routine and an adjusted repertoire, and Vespi’s results.

“I’d like to think so,” he said. “Feeling stronger, throwing a little bit harder, added a new pitch that the Orioles have been wanting me to do. So, learning how to mix that in with my combination, and it’s been working.”

So is his good health following the sports hernia surgery in January 2023.

Does it get Vespi on the Opening Day roster? He’d need to be a third lefty with Cionel Pérez and Danny Coulombe, and the club has plenty of other options, including southpaw Keegan Akin, who’s tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings with one hit and eight strikeouts. But Vespi is doing everything possible to stay in the conversation.

“I leave it all out on the field,” he said. “Whatever decisions they make in the front office, it happens and I’ll be ready for whenever I get that chance.”

A true long reliever is desirable to the club, a sixth-starter type, which improves the odds for someone like Julio Teheran, Bruce Zimmermann or Albert Suárez. The Orioles need a what-if plan, like a line drive in the first inning that knocks out a starter (Kyle Bradish) or an oblique injury while a reliever is warming (Dean Kremer).

“I think in an ideal world you’d love to have somebody down there be able to go three or four innings,” Hyde said. “I don’t know how realistic that is. We still want to keep rotation depth in Triple-A, also, so keep guys stretched out. We’re still talking a lot about our bullpen right now, which direction we’re going to go. But it would be nice to have somebody down there who could cover you.”

The downside is using a pitcher for a chunk of a game and needing to make a roster move the following day for a fresh arm. A three-inning stint is a minimum two-to-three days off. But a team's gotta live in the moment.

Hyde also said the club is discussing the last four spots in the rotation and the order behind Corbin Burnes, but a final decision is pending.

The early off-days could convince the Orioles to go with four starters. It also could impact whether they carry a long man or feel that shorter bursts are manageable with nine relievers.

“All those things come into play,” Hyde said.

“I think the ideal world is you have as many guys in your bullpen that can go multiple innings as possible. If one can go three to four, that’s great, but have as many guys that can log you innings.”

Checking on Kremer, O'Hearn and more in today's ex...
Orioles and Rays lineups in Port Charlotte

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to