Notes: Spring opener; Vesia's fastball

February 26th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Left-hander is scheduled to start the Dodgers’ first Cactus League game on Sunday against the A’s, manager Dave Roberts announced on Thursday.

Kickham, 32, is a non-roster invitee with some big league experience under his belt. The left-hander was a sixth-round Draft pick by the Giants in 2010 and made his debut with San Francisco in '13, appearing in 12 games and going 0-3 with a 10.16 ERA.

After not playing in the Majors since 2014, Kickham had a brief stint with the Red Sox last season, going 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA in six appearances (two starts). Kickham won’t be on the Opening Day roster this season, but gives the Dodgers a veteran arm in camp.

Roberts said Kickham is scheduled to pitch one inning, but he is not sure who else pitching coach Mark Prior has slated on Sunday.

On the position-player side, the Dodgers have Chris Taylor, AJ Pollock and Austin Barnes penciled in as some of the regulars scheduled to play. Taylor, who is expected to see a lot of time at second base this season, has been taking grounders at third as well this spring.

Vesia’s 'eye-opening' fastball
After making his debut last season with the Marlins, left-hander expected to be part of Miami's bullpen this season. That was until he was traded to the Dodgers in exchange for right-hander Dylan Floro.

“It was quite a shock, actually,” Vesia said. “I got here and I felt right at home. It’s been a great transition. I’ve been working with all the pitching coordinators and everything. It’s been going pretty well.”

Vesia struggled in his big league debut last season, allowing nine earned runs in five appearances. But his success in the Minors (1.76 ERA in 38 appearances in 2019) attracted the Dodgers enough. His “unique” fastball, as Prior described it, is another reason why the Dodgers were so intrigued in the left-hander. Vesia calls it an “invisiball.”

“There’s been a couple times where I’ll get swings and misses and I’m like, ‘How did he not hit that?’" he said. "The feedback has been good on it.”

Vesia leaned on the fastball 72 percent of the time last season. That would seem normal for a pitcher who is lighting up the radar gun with 100 mph, but Vesia does it a different way. His fastball averaged just 91.7 mph last season, but his spin rate of 2370 RPM gives opposing hitters trouble picking the ball up out of his hand, particularly when the ball is up in the zone.

“It was coming out free and easy,” Prior said. “Ball jumps on guys. That was kind of eye-opening.”