Faedo navigating through first rookie slump

June 21st, 2022

BOSTON -- Alex Faedo fared well through his first seven starts after joining the Tigers’ rotation on May 4. The right-hander had a 2.92 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 37 innings, a welcome addition to a rotation dealing with the injury bug. 

Faedo’s ERA ballooned to 4.28 after he gave up seven runs in a three-plus-inning outing against the White Sox on June 15. The righty fared slightly better in Monday night’s series opener at Fenway Park, but he was still hit hard for five runs (four earned) on eight knocks in the Tigers’ 5-2 loss to the Red Sox

“Tonight, I learned that every pitch matters,” Faedo said. “Threw a couple of breaking balls, get-me-over strikes, and they took advantage. So just got to be a little bit more crisp on those.”

Though he’s seen better results with his changeup recently, Faedo switched up the game plan and relied heavily on his fastball (45 pitches) and slider (43 pitches) due to Boston’s effectiveness against the changeup. After tonight, the Red Sox are hitting .262/.299/.443 on the pitch, good for the fifth-best average and on-base percentage and the fourth-best slugging percentage in the Majors.

At 26 years old, Faedo is both a rookie and the oldest member of Detroit’s rotation. The right-hander is in his first Major League season after missing all of 2021 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

With each start, manager A.J. Hinch stressed how important it was for starters to learn from their outing. The biggest lesson he hopes Faedo takes away from Monday? 

“Just that he can make adjustments on the fly,” Hinch said. “When they stack the lefties the way they have these left-handed hitters, and you got to get them out in different ways. You can't sequence the same way. He's got to make adjustments and make pitches, and he did that in order to hang in there when they put pressure on him. He made some big pitches and escaped some big innings.”

Faedo’s biggest test of the night came in the fourth inning. After three of the first five batters reached base and another scored on a sac fly, Faedo got a visit from his manager. 

“He was just giving me some confidence,” Faedo said. “He was just telling me, … ‘Hey, we're behind you here, like let's make a pitch, let's get out of this inning.’”

Following the mound visit, Faedo walked Rafael Devers after an eight-pitch at-bat. With a 2-2 count, Devers fouled off a 93.8 mph fastball and an 84 mph slider before Faedo threw two balls to walk the lefty slugger. With the bases loaded, Faedo got J.D. Martinez to ground out on his third offering and escaped the jam.

“I think both those guys are so good that you're just trying to stay away from the middle of the plate,” Faedo said. “... [Devers] fought off a couple pitches, and then it's kind of one of those [situations] where you want to make a perfect pitch, and you're okay with walking him because he can do so much damage. And you had the open base, so it's not going to really hurt you that much. And then you’ve just got to trust yourself against the next guy.”

The tough outing coincided with the league’s move to a 13-pitcher limit, which took effect on Monday after being delayed twice to allow teams more breathing room following a shortened Spring Training. Prior to the series opener, the Tigers activated Jeimer Candelario from the 10-day injured list. In a corresponding move, right-hander Drew Hutchinson was designated for assignment to get Detroit down to 13 pitchers.

With three off-days between now and July, the Tigers opted to shift to a four-man rotation. One man down, the club needs starters to go deeper into games now more than ever. On Monday, the bullpen was called on to get 11 outs. Faedo’s recent skid is hopefully just that, and the rookie can learn from the last two outings and return to his early-season form.

“I thought there [were] a lot of positives,” Faedo said. “And then I thought some of the pitches that I missed, they took advantage of. Those are good hitters over there. And you know, just learning from each and every day like A.J. was saying.”