One of the more impressive pitching lines in the Padres system this year is that of Beavers closer Ernesto Frieri. The hard-throwing righty moved to relief after being a starter in Double-A last year, and has promptly punched out 24 batters in just 16 innings after punching out the side in the ninth today against Memphis. That’s 13.50 K/9; half his outs have been strikeouts.
Sporting a nifty 1.69 ERA, should Frieri get the call?
Well, it’s tempting to say yes, and I think he could certainly be a solid strikeout-oriented reliever at this point.
But who would you send down? Kevin Correia will be forcing someone (likely Adam Russell) down to the minors in a few days, and Tim Stauffer should be back in about a month, which would force Ryan Webb down to the minors as well. Sean Gallagher’s already on rehab, too.
The only way to get Frieri in long-term would be to cut bait on Gallagher, which I don’t advocate doing. And if Frieri isn’t going to be up long-term, he shouldn’t be up at all over more veteran arms like Webb and Russell.
The second problem with Frieri is that he’s walked 12 batters in 16 innings. That’s a problem. It’s not like he’s completely dominating in all aspects, Latos-2009 style. Unless he’s dominating in all aspects, or you need him (which, given the current bullpen depth, they don’t) in the majors, there’s no harm in letting Frieri work on his issues in the minors.
If all goes well, Frieri will be in the mix to take over Heath Bell’s spot if Bell is traded at some point midseason. Cutting his walk rate is his last big step.