Blue Jays' Sean Reid-Foley Shows Plus Stuff In Strong Start
MANCHESTER, N.H.—The Blue Jays are excited about the turnaround they have seen from Sean Reid-Foley. The 22-year-old righthander, who entered the season ranked as the organization’s No. 11 prospect, is repeating Double-A New Hampshire after a rough 2017 season, with much improved results his first month back.
Against Reading on Wednesday, Reid-Foley struck out 10 with zero walks in six innings, allowing two runs and five hits. His fastball sat at 92-95 mph. His threw a plus slider in the mid-80s, burying it as a chase pitch down and away to righthanded hitters and just as effectively generating empty swings when he threw it to the back foot against a lefty.
“Better fastball command,” New Hampshire manager John Schneider said of the difference in Reid-Foley from 2017 to 2018. “We’ve been really stressing keeping the ball down—down and away in safe zones to righties and lefties. He had a great fastball today and his breaking ball has been consistent, both slider and curve. So I think that’s been the biggest difference, if you look at fastball command. Then he’s always had a good breaking ball, and I think just having it be more consistent for him this year has been big for him.”
Through five starts, Reid-Foley has a 1.53 ERA with 31 strikeouts and 10 walks in 29.1 innings. That’s coming off a season in which he posted a 5.09 ERA in 132.2 innings with 8.3 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9.
“The whole focus this year is extension side or down and away to every hitter and get on top of the baseball,” Reid-Foley said. “That’s what we work on every outing and in between outings. It’s not something that’s looked over. I take pride in it, and just hopefully it’s there that day.”
And on Wednesday?
“On a scale of 1-10—10 being the best—I probably thought it was a 5 and a half,” Reid-Foley said of his fastball command. “Some innings it was good, some innings it was kind of, eh. I would say I got away with a lot of them because I was in the zone a lot more today.”
The harshest critic of Reid-Foley is probably Reid-Foley himself.
“I just didn’t really give my teammates a chance to win,” said Reid-Foley, whose team gave up four runs in the ninth inning and lost 6-5. “I came out when we were down 2-1 and they picked me up. That’s my number one thing—go out and try to win every start. And I don’t think I really did that to my best capability today.”
Last year, Reid-Foley would show promise in flashes, but the consistency start to start or even within a start wasn’t there. It varied by outing which offspeed pitch would be working for him. Then at other times his fastball command would escape him and the damage would pile up. One month into the season is too soon to judge how much of that has improved, but the early signals point to a step up from where he was in 2017.
“I think really just buying in and being consistent with his work,” Schneider said. “Obviously we all see every fifth day, but with the stuff he does in between, I think his routine’s a little bit sharper, I think his bullpens are a little bit sharper, with a little bit more purpose to them. He’s just going out and he’s executing.”
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One thing Reid-Foley has switched up this year is the way he throws his changeup. In his last start, his changeup floated up and away on him, but Reid-Foley has been pleased with the movement on the pitch.
“It’s been good,” he said. “I kind of switched my grip in spring training. I got a lot more action on it and a lot more depth, but without being down or over the baseball, it really doesn’t help me at all. So that’s what I really make sure of, because I know it’s not going to be a good day to throw a changeup if I’m not over the baseball and through it.”
The new grip?
“I don’t really know what it is,” Reid-Foley said. “I just put it as deep as I can in my fingers and just throw it. I know that one day it just was really good, and Max (Pentecost) was actually catching me in spring, and he said, 'Hey, whatever you’re doing with that, keep throwing it.’ I trust him and I ran with it.”
Reid-Foley has shown the pitches to miss bats against major league hitters. Now he has to continue to sharpen his command and prove he can hold it over the course of the season.
“Man, that first inning he threw one (slider) to (Zach) Coppolla to lead the game off on the back foot,” Schneider said. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ He’s got the stuff, man. It’s just a matter of harnessing it, and he’s done a really good job of working at it, both in games and during his sides.”