Vincent has worked 23 of his last 24 appearances without allowing a run.
HOUSTON — He’s not overpowering, he’s not flashy or bombastic with the exception of an impressively thick and long goatee and he’s not your typical hard-throwing right-handed reliever.
So what is Nick Vincent? Well, he’s a strike thrower, he’s efficient, he’s almost always available to pitch with pinpoint command and some deception in his delivery and he’s effective.
There have been few better set-up men in baseball than Vincent. He’s made a team-high 40 appearances this season, posting a 1.86 ERA. In 38 2/3 innings pitches, he’s struck out 31 batters and walked just seven. And since he’s moved into the eighth inning set-up role, he’s been even better. Since May 14, he’s made 24 appearances, posting a 0.86 ERA with 16 strikeouts and four walks in 21 innings pitched. And the two runs allowed during that stretch came in one out against the Angels. That means the other 23 innings he hasn’t allowed a run.
“He’s been outstanding,” manager Scott Servais said.
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This isn’t completely unexpected. Despite a fastball that tops out at 91 mph and no explosive out pitch, Vincent showed the potential for stretches like this last season. and before with the Padres.
One aspect of the success is being used in more of a one-inning set-up role often in the eighth inning. Last season, he was used in multiple ways, including 10 appearances of multiple innings. This season he’s made seven multi-inning appearances — five came early in the season when the bullpen struggled. But only twice since May 3 has he been asked to work more than an inning.
“I do think this is his best role,” Servais said. “Some guys are built to handle more multiple inning-type stuff and they are very valuable and nice to have in the bullpen. And you can’t just line up all one inning guys — it doesn’t work. There’s been times where we’ve asked him to get four or five outs, but most times we’ve asked him to get three. He seems to excel in that role working through his own inning. From a health standpoint, it’s been much better this year.”
Vincent dealt with back issues last year. They came after he pitched 2 2/3 innings a day after throwing 2/3 innings in Tampa Bay. It eventually forced him to the disabled list where he missed five weeks, including all of July.
Vincent isn’t going to demand for a specific way to be used.
“Whatever role he puts me in, I’m going to do the same thing,” Vincent said. “Last year, he didn’t know me. When I was with the Padres, I was a one-inning guy. It’s better to have guys every day that go out there and get you a 1-2-3 inning and put up a zero. I think he’s used me more in that role. It’s ‘this guy can go out there every day and give me the same thing — he’s going to throw strikes. He may give up some hits, but he can get out of it.'”
By being used one inning at a time, Vincent has been able to pitch for three straight days and would go more if needed. It’s his mindset since his first year in the Padres organization. He’s trained himself to be available when needed.
“That’s what I’ve been doing since I’ve been drafted,” he said. “I’ve been a setup guy the whole way. I think my first season I threw four times — three out of three days. I’m glad the Padres did that.I got used to it. Some organizations, if you throw two days, they give you a day off. I know once you get up to the big leagues you have to be ready every day. If you always tell them you’re sore, it could be an easy trigger for them to say, ‘well then we’ll get someone else up here that can throw.’ For me it was just easier to be ready every day and do whatever you have to do to get your arm ready for the next day.”
*** As expected, Servais has officially slotted in right-hander Sam Gaviglio to start on Tuesday vs. the Astros.
Gaviglio is 3-4 with a 4.29 ERA. His last big league outing before the All-Star break was his worst of the season, giving up seven runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings against the A’s on July 6. He made one start with Class AAA Tacoma after being sent down.
“It’s understanding we’re playing the best team in the American League right now and a very good offensive club, it will be a very big challenge for us all series,” Servais said. “The biggest thing is for Sam is to stay within his game. He needs to get back to getting ahead in the count, being in the bottom of the strike zone and all the things he does well. Then good things usually happen for him.”
The corresponding move to a free up space on the roster has yet to be determined and could depend on how much the bullpen is taxed going into the game or the status of Mitch Haniger’s injured index finger.
“He’s a little better today,” Servais said of Haniger pregame. “I think he was going to try and go in the cage a little bit and see how that felt — just some swings off the tee and soft toss. He will not be in the lineup tonight obviously, but hopefully he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow.”
Haniger had the finger out of the bandage. It was still swollen and an assortment of colors with a mangled, purple nail.
“It’s better,” he said moving it.
*** Evan White, the Mariners’ first-round draft pick in the recent amateur draft, was placed on the 7-day disabled list after re-aggravating a strain in his quadriceps. White injured himself in a game for short-season Everett on July 14. The DL stint is retroactive to July 15. White was hitting .417 with a double, a triple, two homers and nine RBI over his last six games with the Aqua Sox.