How spring struggles turned into season success for Paul Fry

As his spring training was going from bad to worse, Orioles bullpen lefty Paul Fry was trying to remain confident and keep up a strong mental outlook. He was also hoping his manager was maintaining confidence in him. But just to be sure, a short chat with manager Brandon Hyde wouldn’t hurt.

Fry, who is pitching quite well now and has for most of this season for the Orioles, had a spring ERA of 10.61. Over 9 1/3 innings, he had given up 14 hits and 12 runs. His WHIP was 1.929.

“Yeah, it did test the confidence a little, but also it helped me become better,” Fry said of his rough spring via a Zoom interview today. “I actually went into Hyder’s office in spring. I told him, ‘Hey, I know it looks bad and I’m not shaken by it.’ And I think he received that really well and he told me he’s not worried about it either. So it was just one of those things where the results weren’t there, but my head was good and you see what’s going on now.

“I just wanted to let him know that I was there still. It was ugly in spring training. It was on a bad path. But I was sticking to my guns and sticking to the process and things are working out.”

Fry was also dealing with a nail issue that may have impacted some of those spring training games. And Hyde had a three-season track record of Fry’s pitching to draw on in essentially dismissing the spring results. Fry had pitched to an ERA of 3.35 or less twice in those three seasons. And in 2020, he went 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 22 games for the Orioles.

Fry-Arm-Whip-White-Sidebar.jpgThis season, Fry is 0-0 with a 1.35 ERA. Over eight games and 6 2/3 innings, he has allowed six hits and one run with two walks and eight strikeouts. He has thrown seven consecutive scoreless games. That is tied for the current longest streak in the American League.

A big turnaround from what we saw in Florida in February and March.

“I would say just more consistency. More direction toward the plate,” Fry said. “I was working through some things in spring where I have this hangnail that was kind of swollen up on my middle finger. It was kind of, ball was just rolling off a little differently. So no excuse for the way spring training went, but there are some things that happened and you’ve got to battle through them.”

Very early season data shows Fry has made some gains on his fastball. While the velocity is similar to last year (93.0 mph now and 92.8 mph in 2020), his spin rate with the pitch has gone up from 2,281 RPMs to 2,400 RPMs. His whiff rate on the pitch has also increased from last year, from 15.6 to 26.7. If it looks like his fastball has more late life, it does.

“Yeah, I mean it’s literally just direction toward the plate and you know, spin efficiency. I mean I’ve always been pretty strong in the weight room and stuff, so I mean it’s finally translating on the mound for fastball for sure,” said Fry.

Fry is part of an O’s bullpen that is on a bit of a roll. Relievers have recorded 14 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run and the ‘pen ERA is 1.61 over the last seven games. For the season, the O’s bullpen ERA of 3.49 is sixth-lowest in the league. In nine road games, it is 2.06, the second-lowest bullpen ERA on the road in the majors.

Fry said excellent chemistry and focus are readily apparent among the bullpen hurlers.

“We’re in tune with the game the whole time,” he said. “From pitch one on, we’re out there bouncing ideas off each other. We kind of all know where our pockets would be in the lineup. If there are a few lefties coming up, then I know I could be summoned. But, yeah, we bounce ideas off each other and we’re all out there for the same reason.”

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