Casey Fien finds his calling with Vin Scully on the call
By Cary Osborne
Last Friday, Dodger reliever Casey Fien warmed up in the bullpen at Dodger Stadium, and that was it. He didn’t make it into that game against the Atlanta Braves. And by warming up, he made one of the biggest accomplishments of his professional career — at least in the eyes of friends and family.
He was besieged by friends with texts and calls asking him to hang out and celebrate.
That night, Fien’s parents came to the game. They rushed home afterward upon hearing from Fien’s cousin that Vin Scully said: “Casey Fien is warming up in the bullpen.”
Fien called his parents, Ginny and John, that night to make sure they got home OK. Ginny picked up the phone.
“I can hear my dad in the background: ‘Vin said your name! Vin said your name!’ ” Fien said.
Fien’s first two weeks as a Dodger have made for one instant hometown-boy-made-good story.
Fien, who grew up in Orange County, was placed on waivers by the Minnesota Twins on May 5 after a rough first month in which he surrendered 12 earned runs and five home runs in 13 2/3 innings. Two days later, the Dodgers claimed him.
On May 28, he was called up to the Dodgers, and that same day he struck out all three Mets he faced in New York on 12 pitches in the ninth inning, finishing off a 9-1 Dodger victory. Five games and 4 2/3 innings into his Dodger career, he has eight strikeouts and has allowed just two baserunners — both on singles.
Can a change of scenery really do a player good? Fien wasn’t willing to go that far. But he said there is a different feeling, a special feeling about being a Dodger — one of three teams he rooted for as a child. The others were the nearby Angels and the Rangers — his first Little League team.
“Whenever you step into a big-league locker room and have your name on a back of a jersey is awesome, but having it be my hometown team and know that all my friends are super (excited for) me right now is special,” Fien said. “I know they see these guys play on TV. They see all these great names — Utley, Puig, Gonzalez, Kershaw, Jansen. They wish they were where I am now.
“I still have a job to do. I have to perform. But my friends are in awe of me right now. They know I played for the Twins. They know I played for the Tigers. That’s just like ‘ah yeah, whatever’ (to them). They lose sight of me for a month or two. Now, everyone’s been bombarding me.”
Fien played college baseball at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He was selected in the 20th round of the MLB draft by the Detroit Tigers. He admits that he was hoping at the time that the Dodgers or Angels would select him.
There have been ups and downs in his professional career. He made his big league debut with the Tigers on July 26, 2009. In 2010, he was with four different organizations, having been waived, released and designated for assignment. He had been with the Minnesota Twins since 2012, and between 2012 and 2015 he sported a 3.54 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 3.33 FIP and had a 5.1 K/BB ratio. He couldn’t find his footing with the Twins this year.
In 117 career innings against the AL Central, Fien has a 5.54 ERA. Against all other teams in 139 innings, he has a 2.65 ERA. Since 2012, he has the sixth-lowest walk rate of any Major League reliever at 4.3 percent. His 45.9 percent fly ball percentage is 15th highest.
The 32-year-old right-hander said there’s a difference between when he’s going right and when he’s going wrong. This explains his troubles with the Twins and how he hopes that he can restore himself with the Dodgers.
“Strike one,” he said is the key to his success. “And I’m getting strikeouts. When things are going really well I’m getting strikeouts, and when they’re not they’re usually ambushing me. When teams get to know me like they did in the AL Central, they were sitting first pitch because they know strike one is huge for me. I think I got a little hurt this year, especially when I was facing the Tigers and the White Sox. But I’ll stick with it. I just need to make a better quality pitch on strike one.”
Fien said it’s surreal that he’s here — finally. And he might take advantage of the situation in more ways than one.
“I don’t now if Vin gets on the field. I don’t know what his schedule’s like. But I’d like to meet him,” Fien said.