Fry seeks more success in second half

Paul Fry led the Orioles this season with 66 appearances out of the bullpen. A source of pride that also might have come at a price.

Was it the workload, in his first full season in the majors, that created the 8.38 ERA and .333 average against in August and the 10.29 ERA and .355 average against in September?

It’s a plausible theory given his unprecedented workload and how he registered a 1.08 ERA in July and how opponents batted .107.

Let the reliever take a stab at it.

“I loved having every opportunity. Sixty-six appearances, I took pride in that a lot. (But) it takes a toll on you a little bit,” Fry said Thursday night on the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan.

“The toll that it took, it was my first full major league season. Those 66 appearances, I guess, maybe left me mentally and emotionally drained. Physically, I was there. But now I know what it takes. That’s what I have to work on and that’s something I can learn from.”

Paul-Fry-Fires-vs-BOS-White-Sidebar.jpgThe splits stay fairly even for Fry, with left-handed hitters slashing .250/.359/.480 against him and right-handers slashing .244/.343/.336. But six of the seven home runs he allowed came against lefties, who were 6-for-51 against him before the All-Star break.

“I was always coming in against left-handers,” he said. “First half, I fell in that situation, that role, but I take pride in getting right-handers out, too. It seemed like the second half I lost consistency with my best pitch, which was my slider, and I’m not used to giving up the longball like I did this season, so it was kind of a shellshock to me. Getting beat on my best pitch was not being myself, I guess.”

The new rule requiring relievers to face a minimum of three batters or to close out an inning won’t really touch Fry. He doesn’t fit the specialist mold that Major League Baseball is trying to shatter.

“I’m still trying to understand the rule myself,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll get a breakdown of it in spring training. But whenever you’re called upon, you’ve just got to go out there and throw strikes. That’s the one thing that I’m really going to be working on (next) year is just being more consistent in the zone, controlling the zone, getting guys out.”

Rosters expand to 26 players next season and the Orioles can carry eight relievers on a 13-man pitching staff. Fourteen on the occasions when a fifth starter isn’t needed.

Fry and Richard Bleier, who agreed to terms on a 2020 contract to avoid arbitration, should be two of the lefties and there are multiple candidates for a third, including Tanner Scott and non-roster pitchers Hunter Cervenka and Rob Zastryzny.

Fry hasn’t run out of minor league options. Being a favorite to make a team doesn’t ensure that you’ll stay on it.

“Going through the whole year, it’s a grind,” he said. “Everybody will tell you it takes a toll. It’s just how you bounce back every outing after having a bad one or even after having a good one. It’s how you bounce back and how you show yourself every day.”

Bleier has emerged as a bullpen leader and someone who can offer advice along with innings. They “vented a little bit” during the second half, Fry said, and Bleier provided a reminder during the worst times that “everyone goes through it.”

“He told me he’s gone through it and he had to readjust a little bit,” Fry said. “And that’s what it is. It’s a game of adjustments.”

That includes how Fry and his teammates react to losing Jonathan Villar and Dylan Bundy in trades earlier this week. Two more strikes. Two more reasons why rebuilds don’t come with pretty bows and win totals.

“It’s tough to see your friends go - teammates and guys that you went to battle with - but it’s a business and there’s more of an opportunity for other guys now,” Fry said.

“I wish them all the success in the world wherever they go next. It’s a next-man-up type thing. We can all be in their shoes one day.”

Shameless plug alert: I’m joining Tom Davis and Dave Johnson on “Wall to Wall Baseball” from noon-2 p.m. on MASN.

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