After reflection, KBO dominance, Fedde intriguing arm for Sox

February 17th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- became an enticing addition for the White Sox based on his utter dominance with NC Dinos of the KBO during the 2023 season.

But there was a second component behind the two-year, $15 million deal: according to Fedde and the White Sox, the right-hander is a changed pitcher from the one who posted a 5.81 ERA with the Nationals over 27 starts in 2022.

“He made a lot of adjustments last year and he made them before the season and he applied them immediately and he executed his plan throughout the year,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “He executed the adherence and the stamina that he needed to throw that many innings, and in a league that’s pretty tough.”

“I looked myself in the mirror. Had to do that,” Fedde said. “Adding some pitching repertoire, getting myself to where my throwing mechanics were really consistent. Everything kind of clicked with the four-pitch mix. The sweeper and changeup were so much better than they ever were here in the States. Those were probably the biggest reasons I was able to do what I did.”

What Fedde did was post a 20-6 record with a 2.00 ERA over 30 starts and 180 1/3 innings, totaling 209 strikeouts to 35 walks and 137 hits. He captured the Choi Dong-won Award, the KBO equivalent of the Cy Young Award, becoming the fourth pitcher -- and first foreign starter -- to earn the KBO pitching Triple Crown (wins, ERA and strikeouts).

Adding in the sweeper helped change Fedde’s approach. The great results changed his entire outlook.

“In a sense, I had always thrown a horizontal breaking ball, but didn’t really have any true intent with it,” Fedde said. “Just trying to throw a breaking pitch. And then kind of changed the grip, added four miles an hour to it and it became, over there at least, a devastating pitch.

“My first goal was to make a good impression. First time in a country with a new team, I wanted to start off strong. My first month was crazy and then it was like, let’s keep it rolling. It started creeping into the later months and … it’s hard to believe in a sense, keeping the idea of why not push for unbelievable. It got to the point of possible MVP talks and their version of the Cy Young, it was surreal, but also made every start a lot of fun.”

Quite a bit of early Spring Training talk has centered on the roster competition for this rebuilding team. Fedde should be a rotation lock, hoping to look more like the changed hurler in Korea than the one who struggled in his last Major League stint.

“Confidence of course wasn’t that high when you’re non-tendered and left out as a free agent,” Fedde said. “Over there it gave me a chance to remember maybe the fire that I had in college where you got to be the big horse and every time you got the ball they expected 100 pitches and seven innings.

“It re-lit that fire in me that a team was depending on me to another level. It reminded me of who I should be.”

Remember it all

Michael Soroka, acquired from the Braves this offseason, threw an impressive bullpen on Friday close to 40 pitches. By April or May, that session will probably be a distant memory, but it won’t be forgotten by Grifol.

“I’m taking wins out of each day and making sure that I jot them down, because that's the progress we need to make to be able to be ready for Opening Day. I’m not going to forget these days,” Grifol said. “These days are really important to us.

“That communication I was talking about, that’s important for us. Those clubhouse meetings we’re having -- pitchers, catchers and everybody else -- that’s really important for us. Those are wins that we’re taking out of each day and that are really important to our progression plan.”

Grifol closed with more praise for Soroka.

“Great communication with [senior advisor to pitching Brian] Bannister,” Grifol said. “He was extremely receptive. He was getting really good, educated information that fits his profile and his style. It was a good day."

Key to winning

One word for Grifol sums up championship level baseball.

“Selflessness: that's the word. It's not about you,” Grifol said. “It's about this team. It's about just building this organization. That's the one word I can throw back at you that we have to dominate.”