Beloit right-handed starter Kyle Friedrichs waited a long time to get the opportunity he has this season in the Midwest League and so far he’s taken full advantage of it.
Following his redshirt senior season at Long Beach State, the 6'1'' pitcher was selected in the seventh round of last year’s draft. It was a nice capper on a college career that saw him miss an entire season due to Tommy John surgery.
Friedrichs entered this spring as a man on a mission, earning the Opening Night start for the Snappers and pitching well through the opening month of the season.
“The beginning was cold and it was tough just to get loose,” said Friedrichs, who still had no problem in the Wisconsin conditions by throwing five scoreless innings, striking out six and allowing just three base runners to lead Beloit to a win in the opener.
“You felt stiff the whole time. Once it started warming up, it was easy to get loose and I just focused on down in the zone and getting those ground balls. In the beginning starts, I went five innings because my pitch count was so low. It was a bonus getting that extra inning. I minimized my pitches, got ground balls and let the defense do the work.”
Pitching in a tandem system at Beloit to start the season, Friedrichs has started three games and pitched a pair of contests out of the bullpen. He’s allowed just five earned runs through his first 22.2 innings and posted a 13:3 K:BB rate.
Friedrichs had pitched out of the bullpen in his first three years at Long Beach State, before earning a starting role and throwing 100 innings as a senior. The tandem role will be a method for the A’s to limit his innings in his first full professional season.
“We had a piggy-back system in Vermont last summer, which was three innings or a certain amount of pitches,” he said. “I already threw 100 innings in college, so I was on a limit and my pitch count was low. That’s kind of helped me out in this.
“It can be a little tough, but if you keep with the weight program and conditioning you’ll be OK. We’re going out every fourth day instead of fifth. As a competitor, you want to get out there as much as you can in a full season.”
After signing out of college, Friedrichs spent his pro debut season at short-season Vermont. His ERA was 4.50, but 10 of the 18 earned runs he allowed came over the span of two starts and 3.1 innings. The rest of the season he was consistent for the Lake Monsters. He posted a 1.22 GO/AO and allowed just two homers.
Friedrichs’ between-start routine is playing catch on days one and three, and mixing in a bullpen session on day two. He’s still had plenty of time to work on improving his slider, a pitch that would be a nice offering to go with his four-seam fastball, change-up and slider.
“It’s still not as sharp as it needs to be,” he says of the slider. “We’re all here to work on something. I’m trying to get it sharper so that it will be an out pitch for me.”
He’s also focused on some other subtle changes to how he pitches.
“I’m trying to throw my sinker inside to a lefty,” Friedrichs said. “Also, if you see on TV those guys who throw that two-seam and it runs back in for two strikes. That’s a pretty good pitch that I’m trying to work on. I’m trying to extend my pitches, which means if I’m going to throw a change-up, I want to be able to throw a better one on the next pitch. Or, throw a four-seam off a sinker. I’m mixing up my pitches and seeing what other hitters are doing off of them.”
Beyond all of that, Friedrichs has just tried to keep the same mindset when he’s on the bump facing opposing hitters.
“At Long Beach they always say ‘keep things simple’,” Friedrichs said. “You can’t think about other things. Down is good and up is bad. It’s so simple. Then you make adjustments there. Here, we’re not overthinking things or trying to do things differently.”
It's an approach that’s worked so far for the 24-year old Friedrichs, who may be on the right track to returning to his familiar digs in the state of California with a promotion to High-A.