Fernando Abad is a left-handed relief pitcher who has pitched in MLB for several stints since 2010. While his short time with the Red Sox wasn’t particularly memorable, and didn’t start off well, his acquisition would prove to be a positive for the Boston team overall. Abad was acquired for another relief pitcher, Pat Light, from the Minnesota Twins. Fernando was in the midst of a strong 2016 season with the Twins, mostly facing left-handed batters, pitching to a 2.65 ERA in 39 games over 34 innings.
The Red Sox looked to deploy Abad in much the same way for the rest of 2016. Unfortunately for Boston, Abad didn’t continue his strong 2016 season. He struggled to a 6.39 ERA over just 12 and two-thirds innings for the Red Sox. Part of this was an explosion in his walk rate, from 3.7 walks per 9 innings to 5.7. Also, with the Twins he allowed just 1 HR per 18 innings. With the Sox, that rate stat ballooned to 1.4 HR per 9 innings.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, Pat Light struggled much worse for the Twins and never pitched in MLB after the 2016 season. Abad, however, pitched much better in 2017. Before the season, even while battling for a roster spot with the major league club, Abad pitched for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. In the WBC, Abad only pitched 2 and 1/3 innings over 4 games, but didn’t allow a run.
After the World Baseball Classic concluded, Abad did make the 2017 Red Sox. He compiled a 3.30 ERA in 48 games over 43 and two-thirds innings. Most Red Sox fans that do recall his time remember his eephus pitch, an extremely slow change-up that he threw on rare occassions to throw off batters. Abad also did something he rarely did, with several multi-inning appearances. In fact, Fernando recorded more than three outs in a game on eight occassions, not just coming in to retire tough left-handed batters. Therefore, Abad’s eephus appeared far more often than in years past, especially against right-handed batters. Here’s a clip of Abad throwing the eephus pitch to the Texas Rangers’ Adrian Beltre.
Interestingly, despite being the only left-handed reliever besides Robby Scott for most of the 2017 season, Abad was rarely trusted with any high-leverage situations. There were several reasons that the coaching staff was so reluctant to use him in big spots, though. Most are obvious in the peripheral numbers. While Abad limited his walks to just 2.9 per 9 innings, he allowed a lot of contact and threw the lowest amount of his pitches in the strike zone of any season to that point. So, while Abad’s results were certainly positive, it may have well been because he was used primarily in “garbage time.”
In 2018, Abad hit free agency and didn’t even appear in the Major Leagues during that season. He would reemerge for 21 games in 2019 with the San Francisco Giants, pitching reasonably well but chalking up two losses for the team. Abad didn’t pitch in either the major leagues or minor leagues in the COVID shortened 2020, but did return to MLB in 2021 with the Orioles. Despite not having great results with Baltimore, the Seattle Mariners did sign Abad to a minor league contract in 2022. As of this writing, he is pitching fairly well with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.
The 36-year old may still hang around baseball for a few more years, as he clearly can still get left-handed batters out. Unfortunately for Abad, the three batter minimum rule has certainly made things a bit more difficult for him, forcing him to face more right-handed batters than ever. Here’s to hoping he has a few more MLB seasons left in him!