The Orioles informed reporters that reliever Nick Vespi underwent hernia surgery this morning (via Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com). The team didn’t narrow down a specific timetable for his return but indicated they anticipate him being available early in the 2023 season.
While it doesn’t seem a serious concern, that’d leave open the possibility he’s not ready for Opening Day. It’d be a small hit to Baltimore’s bullpen depth, as Vespi appeared in 25 games last season. The left-hander worked to a 4.10 ERA through 26 1/3 innings, striking out a quarter of opponents with a solid 7.1% walk rate and 42.7% grounder percentage. He generated swinging strikes on an excellent 14.9% of his offerings.
Despite the quality swing-and-miss marks, Vespi’s run prevention was middle-of-the-pack. That’s largely thanks to home run issues, as he allowed 1.71 longballs per nine innings pitched. Vespi doesn’t throw hard, averaging just 88.5 MPH on his fastball. Without overpowering velocity, his heater was hit hard during his rookie campaign.
The Orioles have a few left-handed relief options they can turn to as alternatives if Vespi requires an early-season injured list stint. Cionel Pérez had a strong 2022 season after coming over from the Reds via waivers. Former starter Keegan Akin pitched well through 81 2/3 innings after being moved into relief last year. They should give skipper Brandon Hyde a pair of quality southpaws to deploy even if Vespi’s a bit behind schedule.