Even though Casey Fien only has 14 Major League innings under his belt, he already knows what it’s like to bounce back and forth between teams. He’s just 28, but you can already call him a journeyman relief pitcher.
Actually, most of Fien’s journeys took place in the span of a single month. On March 1, 2010, the Red Sox put a waiver claim on Fien, but they waived him again just three days later. This time Toronto took him. But the Blue Jays didn’t bother keeping him, either, and they released him after two weeks. By March 20, Fien had re-signed with the Tigers. Fortunately for Fien, all of those clubs have Spring Training facilities in Florida; otherwise he would’ve had to hop on flights back and forth to Arizona, which might have caused some jet lag. After the 2010 season, the Tigers let Fien leave for good.
The Twins will give Fien a chance to earn a permanent home this spring, as he battles a crowded field of relievers for a bullpen job. The 6’2″ 195 pound pitcher from Santa Rosa, CA will wear jersey #85, which gives him the dubious honor of having the highest number on his back of any of the Twins’ non-roster invitees.
It seems surprising that the Tigers tried so hard to get rid of Fien, because he had a laudable career as a minor league reliever for them. Detroit grabbed him out of California Polytechnic University (or Cal Poly, as the locals call it) in the 20th round in 2006. All through his rise up the Tiger organizational ladder, he kept his ERA around 3.00 and his stikeout totals high, and his numbers even seemed to improve a bit with each promotion. By 2009, Fien was a closer for AAA Toledo, and he pitched to a 3.41 ERA, 14 saves, and 66 strikeouts in 58 innings. That performance earned him a short callup to the Tigers. He made another guest appearance in the Majors in 2010. Between the two years, he had an 8.36 ERA, but that was in a very low sample of 14 innings.
After Detroit let Fien go, he caught on with the Astros as a minor league free agent. Houston sent him to AAA Oklahoma City, where he had a 4.81 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 24.1 innings. It wasn’t good enough for the ‘Stros, and they released him midseason.
According to Fangraphs, Fien’s fastball has averaged 91.5 mph during his short Major League tenure. I have found other sources that peg the fastball at 93. He appears to be a two pitch guy, with the other pitch being a slider.
Fien has some upside, and at age 28 he is young enough that he might still realize that potential. The main reasons for optimism are his ability to miss bats and his track record of success in the upper minors. But he has yet to demonstrate any type of success in the Majors. Fien will almost certainly be relegated to Rochester to start the season. His best hope of catching on with the Twins is to get off to a great start at AAA and wait for a Twins pitcher to suffer an injury.
We’ve still got 14 more non-roster invitees to go, so keep reading every day! You can read the first 10 here.