When Mike Adams landed on the disabled list just before the All-Star break, the Padres summoned right-hander Ernesto Frieri from Triple-A Portland. Signed as a free agent in January 2003, Frieri is the longest-tenured player in the entire Padres organization, beating fellow right-hander Tim Stauffer by about six months (thanks to my pal Keith for that nugget).
Frieri, you may recall, got into a couple of games for the big club last September. He made his 2010 debut on Friday night, working the ninth inning of San Diego’s 12-1 victory over the Diamondbacks. Frieri pitched well, pumping mid-90s heat and fanning two of the three batters he faced, including the whifftastic Mark Reynolds to end the contest.
I’d seen Frieri pitch a few weeks ago in Portland and been impressed, although the velocity wasn’t quite as good then as it was on Friday night. From my notes on the Portland game:
[Frieri] has taken to the closer’s role nicely, racking up some serious strikeout totals. I thought maybe he was one of those guys who added a few mph by just letting it fly for an inning, but no, he still works 90-92 with the fastball.
Those radar readings came via the PGE Park scoreboard. I can’t swear to its accuracy — one never can be sure with machines and their operators (if memory serves, it had Steve Garrison at 84-86 and Adam Russell at 93-95, which seems about right) — but Frieri’s fastball appeared to have more life on Friday in San Diego. Maybe he had a little extra adrenaline from pitching for a first-place team in front of 33,000+ people than he did pitching for a lousy team that plays in a mausoleum… Anyway, back to my notes:
The difference (that I noticed) is he’s more aggressive now [than when I saw Frieri pitch as a starter at Elsinore in 2008]. Dude attacks hitters, which is fun to see.
You have to love how aggressive Frieri is!! Here’s my fastball, hit it if you dare!
Yep, that’s pretty much it. H.A. Dorfman, who has worked as an instructor, counselor, and consultant for multiple big-league teams, wrote a book some years ago called The Mental ABC’s of Pitching. In it, he has this to say about aggressiveness:
In order to be assertive, a pitcher must put himself in an attack mode. He must attack the strike zone — and establish the count in his favor. Success for a pitcher, in his confrontation with the hitter, comes from adopting that philosophy and putting it into action.
Frieri was in “attack mode” when I saw him at Portland (judging from his numbers, I’d guess he spent the entire season in attack mode), as he was again on Friday. Returning to my notes from last month:
Frieri probably isn’t big-league closer material, but he could be in the mix for a middle relief spot next year for the Padres or some other team. There are worse pitchers in the big leagues right now, e.g., the Arizona bullpen.
Cheap shot. I get a little catty in my notes.
In fairness, though, that bullpen has been brutal (its 6.75 ERA is worst in MLB, well “ahead” of Milwaukee’s 5.14). When Diamondbacks relievers allowed four runs on one hit in the eighth on Friday, it wasn’t even fun to watch; I actually felt bad for them because they couldn’t throw quality strikes (or any strikes, for that matter).
Seriously, how do you walk two guys and plunk another with the bases loaded when you’re already down seven runs? They had stopped competing. As a sports fan, I hate to see that, even when it works to my team’s advantage. It makes everyone look bad.
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Apparently I have run out of stuff to say about Frieri. I’ll close by repeating something else I saw on Twitter, this one from Woe, Doctor!: “Welcome to the Padres, Frieri. May you never return to AAA.”