We continue our series where we issue grades and review the 2017 seasons for each Texas Rangers player, having started with the positional players and going in alphabetical order, and now moving on to the pitchers...
Ernesto Frieri — C
Ernesto Frieri pitched for the Rangers this season. Don’t you remember?
The Rangers purchased the contract of Frieri, who had been pitching for Round Rock on a minor league deal, in mid-June. They had signed him to a minor league deal just about a week earlier, and, in the middle of “desperately seeking relief arms” mode, they brought him up for a look. His first three appearances were all scoreless outings, though he wasn’t missing bats (5 swinging strikes out of 71 pitches). Frieri had a disastrous outing on June 28 at Cleveland, where he walked 3 of the 4 batters he faced (albeit one intentionally), and then after a scoreless outing in Chicago on July 2, he allowed 2 runs in the 11th inning of a game at home against Boston, picking up the loss in a 7-5 defeat, and earning a DFA thereafter. Frieri returned to Round Rock, and stayed there until the Rangers shipped him to Seattle in August.
The interesting thing to me about Frieri was how, for a brief period of time, he was the closer for the Angels and had Rangers fans freaked out. I remember people being mad that the Padres “gave away” Frieri to the Rangers’ arch-rivals, ignoring the fact that, while Frieri got a lot of strikeouts, he also had major command issues. After a 2.32 ERA with a 3.54 FIP his first (partial) season in Anaheim, Frieri came back to earth in 2013, with a 3.80 ERA that matched his 3.72 FIP, before becoming exceptionally home-prone in 2014 and getting shipped off mid-season to Pittsburgh.
In any case, Frieri, now 32, appears destined to hang around on minor league deals for a few more seasons, but the stuff that drove his success earlier in his career appears to have deserted him.
Nick Gardewine — C
A surprise callup in late August, Gardewine made his major league debut a week after his 24th birthday, and it...did not go great. Coming into a blowout against the Angels, Gardewine faced 7 batters, allowed 3 hits, including a home run, walked a batter, and ended up with 3 runs on his ledger (though they were all unearned). He was sent back to Round Rock, then called back up for September when rosters expanded and struggled to miss bats (just 3 of the 40 batters he faced this season fanned) while walking too many hitters (7 on the season).
Gardewine didn’t seem to be first in line from those on the farm to get brought up to the majors when he was called up, though the beat writers seemed to indicate earlier this month that Sam Wolff would have gotten the nod if a flexor tendon injury (which will keep Wolff out for much of 2018) hadn’t sidelined him. Still, Gardewine was going to be Rule 5 eligible this offseason, throws hard, and had an impressive season for Frisco (53 Ks against 12 walks in just 36.2 IP, with a 2.21 ERA). Given that he was apparently going to be added to the 40 man roster anyway this offseason, you can understand why the Rangers decided to give him a look when they did.
The performance wasn’t there for Gardewine in his brief look, but he’ll likely be back in Arlington at points over the next season or two, with his role for 2018 likely being AAA bullpen depth stashed at Round Rock.
Dillon Gee -- F
The Rangers were enthusiastic enough about Gee, signed as a minor league free agent, coming out of spring training that they worked out a deal with him to be added to the 40 man roster and accept an optional assignment to AAA, even though he had enough service time to reject such an assignment.
It ended up not working out, of course. Gee was called up in late May, had a scoreless outing in relief in a 9-5 win against Tampa, and then allowed 4, 4 and 2 runs in 4, 3.1 and 3 IP over his next three outings. The 3.1 IP stint was a start against the Mets where he needed 83 pitches to allow 4 walks, 3 home runs, and 5 other hits, while somehow managing to allow just 4 runs. And the Rangers even won...it was a Festivus miracle!
Gee was cut loose soon thereafter, having put up a 7.47 FIP, and is a reminder that you don’t want your ERA (or your FIP) to be a jet. He ended up signing with the Twins, and made a few starts for them before moving to their bullpen in September.
On the plus side, at least we didn’t have to trade Jurickson Profar to get him...