TODAY: The Yankees have announced a minor-league deal with Frieri that includes an invitation to MLB camp.
YESTERDAY: Veteran reliever Ernesto Frieri worked out for the Yankees today, as Jack Curry of the YES Network reports (Twitter links). While he hasn’t yet agreed to terms with New York, Frieri says he hopes to do so tomorrow.
Frieri, 31, last pitched in affiliated ball in 2015, when he worked to a 4.63 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 over his 23 1/3 frames with the Rays. While that represented an improvement in the earned-run department after Frieri’s massive struggles the season prior, when he allowed 7.34 earned per nine, the peripherals were a big step back.
After all, Frieri had never before finished a MLB season (excepting his two-frame showing in 2009) with anything shy of double-digit strikeout-per-nine numbers. Over his seven years in the bigs, Frieri has averaged 11.6 K/9, though he has also been prone to the free pass (4.2 BB/9) and generates very few groundballs (26.2%).
The swing-and-miss that had defined Frier’s career began to erode in 2014, when he dropped to a 10.0% swinging-strike rate. That fell yet further in the ensuing campaign, when Frieri also exhibited a career-low fastball velocity. Having sat in the 94 mph range for much of his career, Frieri was reduced to working at 91 to 92 mph in his most recent season in the majors.
Those struggles left Frieri without an opportunity in 2016. He spent camp with the Phillies but was released at the onset of the season. Frieri did appear briefly in the Venezuelan Winter League, though, and did notch two scoreless frames in the WBC recently for his native Colombia.
While the overall body of work doesn’t suggest that Frieri would have much of a shot at pitching in the majors out of camp — particularly since he has yet to sign — the key factor will be how he’s throwing. Indeed, Yankees skipper Joe Girardi says that the veteran would have a real shot at making the roster if he is added to the mix, as MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweets.