Dodgers’ Alex Vesia looking forward to homestand vs. Padres

Alex Vesia enjoyed being outdoors and grew up in Alpine, a town in San Diego County of about 15,000 people in the Cuyamaca Mountains.

He played Little League baseball, rode his bike, and kept himself busy in the family’s large backyard.

“When I wasn’t playing baseball,” he said, “I was mostly out in the desert, riding a dirt bike or camping with my family.”

When a home repair was required, Alex and his sister Serena did not see plumbers or electricians show up. Alex’s parents did the job themselves. Cindy is a manufacturer of composite tools for General Atomics. Bob owns a machine factory.

“We don’t call anyone to fix problems around the house,” said Alex. “Either my mom or dad will no doubt fix it one hundred percent.”

When the Dodgers need a relief mug – and it could happen Tuesday night when they face the San Diego Padres to kick off a three-game series at Petco Park – rookie Vesia proves to be a reliable handyman.

Left-handed, he wears a 2.57 ERA in 28 innings with the World Series defending champions who earned him from the Miami Marlins in February.

Vesia weighed 150 pounds as a slim senior for Steele Canyon High in Spring Valley. His fastball reached a top speed of 84 mph.

Now it’s averaging 93.6 mph, per FanGraphs.com.

Meanwhile, the 6-foot-1 pitcher got much stronger as he steadily put on weight over his four years at Cal State East Bay, the only college that offered him a scholarship.

The delivery he showed for Steele Canyon is basically still the same, he said – but Vesia, now listed at 209 pounds, said the muscles he gained in college served him well to have.

“I threw strikes,” said Vesia, who stays in touch with many former Steele Canyon teammates. “That is the first key. Throw punches and keep the clubs off balance. Mix in a changeup or slider. But my fastball also has good speed and properties. I learned a lot from my catchers about what is beautiful. You mentioned absolutely great games. I trust them.”

It appears that the Dodgers either invested in Vesia or believed they could improve Vesia’s “spin efficiency” when they beat a major league player, reliever Dylan Floro, against Vesia and four months after winning the 2020 World Series exchanged another lower division pitcher. Both pitchers came from the Marlins, Vesia in 17th

Spin efficiency describes how well spin is converted into motion. The more efficient the spin, the more the ball moves. Some pitchers have a high spin rate but a low efficiency.

Vesia throws fastballs that appear to jump over the hitters’ clubs.

Right-handers tee off .085 from him; Left-handed hit .116. Hitters are 0 for 10 against the rookie in “High Leverage” on Bats, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

The Dodgers and Vesia family can send a thank you letter to a Steele Canyon advisor who convinced Alex that he had a realistic chance of attending four year college.

Alex, who said the counselor would likely prefer to remain anonymous, said he thrived at Hayward School.

“It was definitely the best decision I’ve made,” said Vesia. “I absolutely loved it there.”

Four years of strength training and collegial pitching paid off, as did intensive scientific online work, which, together with his job in a fitness club, resulted in Vesia’s degree in leisure management.

His affection for Alpine is even clearer: “We love Alpine – Alpine is the best.”

When he returns to his hometown, he quickly finds a local restaurant, Tapatio’s Mexican Grill, whose California burritos he advertises to his friends and Dodgers teammates.

Enjoying the eccentric atmosphere of the city, he notices that when he was a boy the Little League teams went into Alpine college names.

“We were the TCU Horned Frogs for a year,” said Vesia. The left-hander added: “Of course, Alpine always thinks outside the box.”

When the self-proclaimed small town kid pitching in Los Angeles, the small town comes to him.

Bob, Cindy and Serena have become regulars at Dodger Stadium and attend most games between Thursday and Sunday, although they don’t know if Alex will line up. Vesia makes sure he sees his parents and sister in the stands, usually near a railing two decks away from the field.

“I can’t express what it’s like to look in the stands and see them – it means a lot to me because they have always been behind me,” he said. “They always told me to pursue your goals and not let anything stop you. And now we are here. “

The Dodgers appear to be heading into the postseason where they will attempt to become the first National League team to repeat as champions since the 1976 Reds.

There’s a precedent for an East County left-hander to favor the success of the Dodgers’ World Series: Terry Forster of Santana High in Santee appeared for the 1981 World Series winners seven years after leading the American League with Chicago.

As a boy, Vesia selected top-notch big league players, starting with Derek Jeter.

He won’t stop aiming high. “I like where I am and I like where I want to go,” he said. “The next two months will be a lot of fun.”

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