Glimmering like the first streetlight on a relentlessly dark road trip is rookie pitcher Paul Fry.
After getting called up to the Orioles alongside Ryan Meisinger on June 29, the southpaw allowed no runs over his first 4 1/3 innings before his start was marred slightly by four runs (one earned) during Sunday’s 10-1 loss at the Minnesota Twins. Fry has struck out seven with no walks and only five hits allowed in 5 1/3 innings for a 1.69 ERA.
“It’s everything that I thought [the majors] would be,” he said.
Other than his outing in Minnesota on Sunday, the two-pitch rookie has maintained laser accuracy.
Against the Twins on July 6, Fry fanned four over 2 1/3 innings. Three days earlier in Philadelphia, he forced Phillies center fielder Odúbel Herrera into an inning-ending grounder with the bases loaded. Against the Los Angeles Angels in his debut on June 29 — after predicting he’d “black out” when his number was called — he allowed two hits but struck out two without a run scored.
“First game against the Twins really made me realize my stuff plays here. And I have a chance to pitch a while at this level, and I just gotta keep the ball down,” Fry said. “If I do struggle, I have to make adjustments quickly.”
Shipped cross country in an April 2017 trade with the Seattle Mariners, Fry posted a 4.33 ERA in the minors last season. He then whittled it down to 3.19 this year between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk before the Orioles gave him a chance.
The 25-year-old lefty was Seattle’s 2013 17th-round draft pick out of St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Mich. Just a few years earlier, Fry might have laughed at the concept.
“I didn’t even start playing baseball until high school,” said Fry, who played receiver for the Waterford-Kettering football team in Michigan. “I would’ve went Division III to play football, but decided my size just wasn’t good enough (6 feet) for football, so baseball worked out.”
Fry quit football, as well as basketball, to funnel his attention toward what he called his “young, fresh arm.” Not long after putting on the junior college uniform, the left-hander received an envelope from a Texas Rangers scout.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this could happen,’ ” Fry said. Before then, the majors were nothing more than stuff of a healthy REM cycle.
Now that his dream has been realized, Fry is clutching it tight. He’s not sure what hat he should wear for the Orioles yet, though he's wearing that of a specialist and lefty exterminator at the moment.
At the chance to test his mettle against the predominantly right-handed New York Yankees on Monday, he was like a racehorse pressing at the gates.
“It’s motivating really. It’s exciting to face top tier, best of the best,” he said.
Because his job so far is as a short-spurt reliever using his four-seamer and slider, Fry’s size is a sample. He’s totaled only 5 1/3 innings in over a week.
But to the players in the clubhouse, his short work has made an impact.
“Last year to this year, his fastball has improved a lot,” said relief pitcher Mike Wright Jr., who spent a little time in the minors last season with Fry.
Having young energy around has stirred a little life in what could otherwise be, Wright said, a gloomy atmosphere.
“It’s cool when guys get to make their debut,” he said. “Makes you remember your debut, what you did, who you struck out.”
Fry is “picking the brain” of every major leaguer around him while he can, ducking under the wing of Andrew Cashner.
“He tells me every day, ‘Kid, you belong here and you have what it takes. Keep your mental right and keep going,’ ” Fry said. “Given this opportunity, I’m taking it and running with it. I hope I can just put my resume in for this club next year.”