There was a time, not too long ago, where Ernesto Frieri looked unstoppable. When he was called up back in 2010 there was a minor controversy in terms of placing him within that year’s historically-good bullpen – simply because he was called up to be a band-aid replacement, not a permanent solution. We certainly weren’t expecting him to thoroughly refuse to give up any runs, or any hits for that matter. Unsurprisingly, due to his age and production, management decided to stick with him, dedicated to his development – this season he’s a go-to guy in 6thinning switches, but he certainly doesn’t let us breathe easy anymore.
To be fair he’s settled down a bit after a shockingly bad 2012 debut. His April 5th outing had him throwing 38 pitches to six dodgers, three days later he gave up a home run in a garbage-time blowout. After an ugly walk to Chris Young in his next outing he started to reign himself in – there’s been no runs since, and he’s actually averaging two strikeouts an inning. That guy we fell in love with, unfortunately it never sticks around for long. Frieri has been inconsistent at best; the wild-card of the bullpen, a guy who can look brilliant and relentlessly incompetent depending on the evening– perhaps we’ve been spoiled with resources like Mike Adams in recent memory, but it’s hard to stay convinced with Ernesto.
Frieri is the kind of guy who can absolutely destroy morale on a bad day. It’s one thing to get batted around the park, but free passes? Those are the things that shouldn’t even be in a reliever’s DNA. Last year Ernesto sported a bulbous 4.86 BB/9, he actually issued one or more walks in more half of his appearances. These are the things that make a baseball fan feel helpless, small, and angry. His control issues are undoubtedly responsible for a lot of frustrated nights. He’s not really a break pitcher, in fact he threw his 4-seamer 76 percent of the time last year, but there are days where he seemingly can’t locate.
Honestly it looks pretty mental. Ernesto’s walks are usually ugly, 5 pitch things, we’ve all seen him crack after losing one guy. It’s a shame because outside of those moments he looks incredibly capable. I don’t think you’ll meet any Padres fan calling for his relegation. So I guess it goes to the coaching staff’s ability to hone him. Frieri is playing in arguably the most pitcher-friendly park in the nation; he shouldn’t be obsessed with avoiding contact. With time and training hopefully he could look fearless for an extended period of time, until then we’ll be biting our lip when he gets the call.
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