A disturbing late-game pattern has grown worse for Sky Sox pitcher Christian Friedrich.
The former No. 1 pick has been solid in the early going, posting a 3.38 ERA over the first four innings of his past four starts (six runs in 16 innings). But from the fifth inning on, those numbers are reversed, with Friedrich giving up 16 runs in six innings (an ERA of 24.00).
That bit him on Thursday in a start against New Orleans. After cruising through four shutout innings, Friedrich was touched for a run in the fifth and escaped the sixth when a smashed line drive happened to hit his glove for the final out.
The wheels came off in a five-run fifth.
“I know that it’s on his mind to go as deep as he can,” Colorado Springs manager Glenallen Hill. “Part of pitching at the end of the pitch count is these guys have to learn how to go to that next level mentally and finish.
“It’s a matter of being there a few times and learning how to relax in that moment and keep focused.”
Friedrich’s last start-to-end solid start came on April 20, when he threw seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts. But he needed just 80 pitches in that outing.
His most recent troubles have crept up after that 80-pitch point.
This hasn’t been a new trend for Friedrich. In 2012 – his one big-league season – his inning-by-inning ERA split tailed off like this: second inning, 4.50; third inning 5.62; fourth inning 7.31; fifth inning, 9.24.
With his 27th birthday less than two months away, it may be time for the Rockies to consider Friedrich as a bullpen candidate if working deep into games continues to be problematic.