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Jun 20, 2024  |  
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https://chicago.suntimes.com/authors/daryl-van-schouwen


NextImg:Change was good for new White Sox pitcher Erick Fedde

Erick Fedde went to the lab, went to the gym and went to Korea.

He came back about to get $15 million richer, brimming with confidence after pitching to a 2.00 ERA with a 20-6 record that put a Korean Baseball Organization MVP trophy in his suitcase and a return to the major leagues in his future.

The White Sox signed the 30-year-old right-hander, who posted a 5.71 ERA in 27 starts and 127 innings for the Nationals in 2022, expecting him to fill innings for a pitching-thin team on the rebound from a 101-loss season. In six seasons with the Nationals, mostly as a starter, Fedde owned a 5.41 ERA.

“I mean, he’s a totally different guy,” pitching coach Ethan Katz told the Sun-Times this week.

After the 2022 season, Fedde, a 2014 first-round draft choice by the Nats, reassessed his situation, his focus and his career.

“I knew some things had to change,” Fedde said. “I just wasn’t having the success I wanted. I picked up and moved to Arizona and got to a workout facility and a pitching lab [Push Performance]. They also had some physical therapists in the facility to get me feeling right and get myself a new repertoire and feeling strong.”

“He’s changed his arsenal,” Katz said. “He’s added the sweeper, changed his changeup grip, and the sinker, and he’s kind of cut down on his fastball usage as well. He was getting a lot of ground balls.”

At an unheard-of 70% ground-ball rate.

“And will that possibly go up [against major-league hitting]?” Katz said. “Possibly, but he’s going to keep guys on the ground with the adjustments he’s made. We see it as a huge plus for us.”

Simply put, Fedde found an arsenal that works with how he throws. It can take pitchers multiple seasons to figure it out. The sweeper, a variant of a slider with more horizontal movement, has grown in popularity over the last few seasons. Fedde’s new mix is more conducive to his arsenal now, Katz said.

“And I got my changeup figured out,” Fedde said. “That led me to have a four-pitch mix [sinker, cutter, sweeper, changeup] when I went to Korea and led to a lot of success.”

Korean professional baseball is said to be comparable to Double-A or Triple-A minor- league ball in the U.S. Fedde notes there are a couple major-league caliber hitters in most lineups, but less power. At any rate, Fedde’s confidence is at an all-time high because of how his arm feels and how he’s commanding pitches.

“There’s just no more confidence I can possibly have than what I do now,” he said. ‘Now it’s about taking that and feeding it into my upcoming pitching in the majors again.

“I really believe [the success is] going to translate well. The biggest thing is my last year in D.C., I was not feeling as amazing as I do now. I feel strong, I feel healthy. My velocity is back. There’s a sharpness to my pitches I just didn’t have.”

The sweeper has added velocity from what the pitch was before, a slider. It induced swings and misses he wasn’t getting with the Nats.

Fedde said his experience at Push, where he strengthened his shoulder, was life-changing. He said the Korean experience “was amazing.”

“They treated me really well,” he said. “The atmosphere is unmatched with the chants and the way the crowd is. It was a great place to go and I wanted a place where I could throw a ton of innings, work on my things and make adjustments. Korea really offered that for me.”

The Sox’ offer was “great,” Fedde said, and talks with general manager Chris Getz, manager Pedro Grifol and Katz afforded levels of comfort and belonging.

It feels like a good spot for him to put his major-league career on a better path. The Sox rotation is far from set with Dylan Cease potentially getting traded and candidates like Fedde, Michael Kopech, Touki Toussaint, Jared Shuster, Michael Soroka, Chris Flexen and more vying for spots.

“Talking about starting a new culture there,” Fedde said, “and also it’s a place I felt I could get into the rotation and help the squad be better, and be part of the rebuilding of that rotation, for sure.”