Alex Vesia earned role as Dodgers’ Juan Soto stopper in playoffs

Adam Weinrib
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 11: Alex Vesia #51 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates after a strike out to end the top of the seventh inning in game one of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on October 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 11: Alex Vesia #51 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates after a strike out to end the top of the seventh inning in game one of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on October 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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For those who doubted the Dodgers’ bullpen without a proven-healthy Blake Treinen or an established Craig Kimbrel, allow us to reintroduce you to Alex Vesia, the screaming, perspiring, absolute unit who shut down the Padres’ rally in Game 1.

Vesia is impossible not to love, even for Dodgers fans with the highest possible standards. He injects energy into every outing. He radiates intensity. And, most importantly by far, he exudes gumption while also getting the job done. 

Many relievers are angry. Not all angry relievers are also lockdown. Vesia is both, and has earned the right to protect the mid-to-late innings, whether or not there’s a lefty slugger on the horizon.

But when there is a lefty slugger looming — say, Juan Soto for instance — Vesia will be Dave Roberts’ go-to, as he proved again in Game 1 Tuesday night.

For as much praise as the Padres’ bullpen bridge got after Mike Clevinger came up short, Vesia held things down for the team that actually triumphed, following Evan Phillips’ sixth inning skittishness and Gavin Lux’s excellent defense with 1.2 brilliant innings. Par for the course, no matter which Padres were due.

Dodgers’ Alex Vesia has earned 2022 playoff roster spot

Vesia’s outing ended with one more trick, inducing a soft, flipped Soto fly out to Trayce Thompson in left as the FOX booth noted he’d likely be called upon to do the same thing again later in the series.

It’s difficult to believe there’d be a Vesia non-believer left among Dodgers fans, especially while he’s on a heater this impressive (0.63 ERA, 0.77 WHIP in his past 15 games with 24 Ks in 14.1 innings), but if they do exist, they should accept he’ll be the glue moving forward. He’ll specialize in both lefties and righties and switch-hitters. He’ll expand the borders of what it means to “specialize” in something.

And when the stars align, he’ll strike those stars out.

Entering 2021, Victor González was the Dodgers’ primary lefty threat out of the bullpen, and envisioning a world where he’d lose his control that season before disappearing for the entirety of the next campaign felt like a nightmare scenario.

Enter Vesia, who took the job and ran with it to a degree that González never got a chance to. There’s more than enough room for both, if the 2020 World Champ ever returns at full strength, but for now, Vesia has elevated the gig, and should be thought of as much more than just a lefty moving forward.

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