Erick Fedde is back where he always wanted to be.
He just had to take a trip halfway around the world to get here.
The newest member of Chris Getz’s revamped, work-in-progress White Sox roster comes with the familiar baseball story of turning around a career that was plummeting downward. An offseason of transformative work, an out-of-nowhere season of success, the reward of a multi-year contract to pitch near the top of a rotation. We’ve heard it all before.
But Fedde’s story took an unexpected turn — onto another continent.
After years pitching for the Nationals without much success, Fedde spent the 2023 campaign pitching for the NC Dinos in South Korea. He turned in a 20-win, 2.00-ERA season and won the KBO’s equivalent of both the MVP and Cy Young awards.
Now he’s a White Sock after signing a two-year free-agent deal worth $15 million.
Welcome back to the bigs.
“I had that terrible taste in my mouth about the way my career ended up in the major leagues,” Fedde said during a Thursday media session, “and going to Korea, it could be the last taste I ever had of it. I just really didn’t want that to be how my career ended in the major leagues, and luckily I’m able to pitch well and get a chance again.
“That just gives me that much more fire to make sure I change the way I’m viewed and the narrative around my career and move forward in a positive way.”
The way things ended for Fedde with the Nationals was enough to give any competitor a bad taste in their mouth. He finished the 2022 season with a sky-high 5.81 ERA, the worst of a career that’s seen him pitch in parts of six different major league seasons.
Only in 2021 and 2022 did his workload reach what the White Sox are expecting from him over the next two seasons, but over the course of 260.1 innings in those two years, his ERA was an ugly 5.46.
“The reality was, unfortunately, that year in spring training I had a little hiccup with health, and I just felt like I was behind the 8-ball from the beginning. I never really felt truly healthy,” he said. “It was tough. My velocity was down. Things weren’t sharp. It felt like rather than really focusing on being my best, it was just trying to get ready to go out there every five days. And that’s not a fun place to be when it’s a long season.”
So Fedde went to work. He moved to Arizona, finding a workout facility that helped him on the physical and pitching fronts. When it came to the latter, he added a sweeper, figured out his changeup and settled on a four-pitch mix that led to his success in Korea.
“I wanted a place where I could throw a ton of innings and work on the things I made adjustments on,” he said, “and Korea really offered that for me.
“I really didn’t have the put-out breaking ball. My cutter was my go to but not really a swing-and-miss pitch. But having the sweeper added some velocity to my breaking ball and just was really getting swings and misses I was missing in the big leagues. The changeup was just another way to keep righties and lefties off my fastball, which I really needed.”
Anyone who follows new White Sox pitching czar Brian Bannister on Twitter already knows that the changes Fedde made reminded Bannister and pitching coach Ethan Katz of former pupil Logan Webb, who took a star turn for the Giants last season and finished as the runner-up in the NL Cy Young vote.
Bannister outlined on Twitter that Fedde and Webb work out at that same Arizona facility during the offseason and that once upon a time, Webb added some of the same pitches Fedde recently did, doing so under Bannister and Katz’s watch when they were Giants employees. It provides a level of familiarity — with the work, if not with the pitcher himself — that gives the White Sox confidence Fedde’s success will not be limited to the other side of the planet.
And that strikes as a reasonable concern, whether Fedde can replicate the results he had facing off against KBO hitters against the more dangerous batsmen in the big leagues.
But confidence was Fedde’s watchword Thursday, and there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of belief that he can duplicate what he did overseas.
“I just felt like I came in there in the best shape, (with) the best pitching repertoire I ever had,” Fedde said of his time in the KBO. “I had a lot of confidence going in there, and I think it just led to the success.
“I feel like I haven’t had quite this confidence in a long time. … The new pitch mix and all those things, to see the success I had with them, there’s just no more confidence I can possibly have than what I do now. Now it’s about taking that and feeding it into my upcoming pitching in the majors again.”
But will it all work stateside?
“I really believe it’s going to translate well. The biggest thing is my last year in DC, I was not feeling as amazing as I do now. I feel strong. I feel healthy. To me, my velocity is back. I feel there’s a sharpness to my pitches that I just didn’t have there at the end of my career (with the Nationals). I’ve been lucky enough to pitch in the big leagues, and I know what it takes to get outs, get swings and misses and be successful. I think I have a lot of confidence thinking that what I have now is a repertoire that can do that.
“I feel like I’m throwing as hard and as well as I have ever in my career.”
While the White Sox, whether because of Dylan Cease trade rumors or the offseason additions yet to be made, still face tons of questions about what their starting rotation will look like in 2024, Fedde is an undoubted part of things. The White Sox wanted it that way, striking on the free-agent pact with Fedde for one of the few moves made across baseball during last week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville.
Now it’s about getting him in front of Bannister and Katz and making sure their dreams of turning KBO dominance into major league success can become a reality.
The belief is there. The confidence is there. Now it’s time to get on the mound and make it happen.
Fedde has worked his way around the world and back. Now he gets a chance to star on the South Side.
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