PORTLAND, Maine — Great closers have two things: Nasty stuff and the confidence to back it up.
Durbin Feltman has no shortage of either.
The Red Sox prospect has a fastball that tops out in the high 90s, a knee-buckling slider, and relishes being the last pitcher to get the ball.
“Oh yeah, I love it. I like the chaos,” Feltman said. “People talk about meaningless innings and there are no meaningless innings, but there are innings that are in a closer game. I just like going out there and hey, I finished, game’s over, let’s go home. I’ve done it for three years and I like the quote-unquote pressure you feel. I like to go out there with the game on the line.”
That said, great relievers still have to put it all together, and Feltman hadn’t this week in Double-A Portland. After back-to-back implosions, his ERA spiked from 3.86 to 11.00 coming into last night’s game.
Feltman isn’t one for sugarcoating the bad, but the best closers also have the shortest memories and he’s cognizant of that.
“Not great,” Feltman said of his start. “I like to put things in perspective though. These past two outings have probably been the worst I’ve ever thrown in my life, including high school, all the way back to grade school. Before that I had a blip here and there, but the first seven outings I felt were pretty good. Especially making the transition to Double A.
“There’s no more get-me-over fastballs or get-me-over sliders,” he explained. “You’ve got to make every pitch count. So I’m kind of taking those two outings and throwing them away in my mind.”
The 22-year-old offered his own post-mortem on the two, which saw him tagged for four runs in back-to-back appearances.
“I definitely did not have command,” Feltman said. “I feel like if I have command, you’re not going to touch my stuff. But when I get hit is: I just walked the last batter on four straight balls and then if I’m 1-0 the next guy, behind in the count, I’ve got to groove a fastball and damage is done. You can’t do that at this level.
“Then with my slider, it’s turning into a curveball, which I don’t like. It’s too big,” Feltman continued. “It wasn’t a competitive pitch. That’s what translates to having outings like that.”
How does a slider turn into a curveball?
“I’m trying to make it too big, too good of a pitch,” Feltman said. “I’m trying to overthrow it and stuff. My hands are getting too far around the ball and it’s turning into this big loopy thing at 79-81 (mph) rather than my slider in the mid-80s.”
Feltman explained that the key to sharpening the breaking ball is simply doing less. He feels he figured something out during a rainy bullpen session on Tuesday afternoon.
“Hey, it’s a fastball,” Feltman said of the mindset. “Throw a fastball and let the grip do the work, which is what I used to do and what I’m getting back to... I feel we fixed it. Hopefully we fixed it today. I felt like it was good stuff. Just treating that slider like a fastball and not trying to make it too big.”
After the Red Sox selected the hard-throwing righty in the third round last June — pick No. 100 overall — there were rumors that Feltman could be fast-tracked to Boston.
Though he was regarded as one of the most big-league ready relievers in his class, the Sox wanted to see him grow in the minors first. So Feltman toyed with hitters in three Single-A stops last season, posting a 1.93 ERA and striking out 36 batters in 23 1/3 innings.
It’s no surprise he’s eager to pitch at Fenway Park — and he might make an appearance in Boston’s bullpen at some point this summer — but this start in Double A has taught Feltman there’s work to be done in Portland first.
“(I’d like to get there) as soon as I can honestly,” Feltman said. “I’ve got some stuff to iron out though, as you can tell. I don’t feel like I’ve been wrapped up in it too much, but there’s a lot of outside noise. Last year I blocked it out. This year I’ve tried to do that but it’s getting tougher and tougher to do. Especially when you’re at this level and you’re so close. You’re basically a phone call away. But just getting back to hey, I’ve got to go out there and throw the next inning here.
“I don’t have to worry about throwing in Boston,” Feltman continued. “Boston is going to come. It’s not a matter of if, it’s just when for me. I look at it that way. So I’ve got to take care of business here, because if I don’t take care of business here I’m not going anywhere.”
Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for the Eagle-Tribune and CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason
Pedey washed out
After a rainy afternoon, Dustin Pedroia was scratched from the Sea Dogs lineup on his rehab assignment in Portland last night.
The second baseman had been slated to play seven innings in the first of three straight games. A few hours before first pitch, he said he was feeling good.
As Pedroia attempts another comeback from major knee surgery, he has begun wearing a different brace and is optimistic that it’ll yield better results.