Middle relievers are the offensive lineman of baseball. They are relatively anonymous, usually don’t share much of the glory and often get noticed only after a making a mistake. Casey Fien is a perfect example.
Now in his 5th season with the Twins, Fien has been a reliable performer on teams that typically lacked them. From 2012-15, the right-hander posted a 3.54 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 243 games, striking out 197 against just 39 walks in 223 2/3 innings. Yet, good luck finding a Twins fan who could pick him out of a line-up.
Although his 2016 season hasn’t been up to form so far, Fien’s strikeout-to-walk ratio (12 to 3 in 13 2/3 innings) remains strong, which indicates better times may be ahead. I caught up with 32-year-old Californian during the last homestand.
DZ: You guys had an exciting win last night (6-5 over Cleveland on April 26). You got a couple of big outs. How does that carry over into today?
FIEN: The life of a reliever; day by day. You can’t live in the past. Even if it’s good or bad, it’s a new day. What have you done for my lately, pretty much is what our role is. Love me yesterday, might not love me today.
DZ: How long did it take you to adjust to that?
FIEN: It is what it is. Once you start playing baseball everyday when you get into the minor leagues, everyday is a different game and you take it like, “Well I did good yesterday, hopefully I do good today.” It’s like a rollercoaster ride, you’ve got your ups and downs. You just have to stay neutral. It’s all going to work out.
DZ: As a relief pitcher you get an inning here, a couple of outs there. Early in the year if you have one bad outing, your ERA can look pretty ugly. Is that (mindset) how you get through that…?
FIEN: You are always going to have some downfalls during the year. Unless you are (Royals closer) Wade Davis. You can’t put everything on one outing. You give up three runs there and then you go ten straight (appearances without giving up a run) and the only thing people remember is the one game where you gave up three runs. With the manager, I am just trying to get his confidence back in me and be able to pitch in games when they count.
DZ: How about your role? With Glen Perkins out and some guys struggling, are things kind of up for grabs right now? Do you know what your role is?
FIEN: I don’t think anything is up for grabs. I think we are all pretty good at when that phone call comes down and it’s your name, get ready and go. I think anybody at anytime can take the 8th inning, 7th inning, closer. I think right now (Kevin) Jepsen is the closer and then however we need to get there to get to him is all that matters.
DZ: You are in your fifth year on this team which kind of makes you one of the veteran guys on the squad. Do you think of yourself that way?
FIEN: Maybe in the bullpen. I try to take care of some of the guys, especially the young guys that come up and lead them in the right direction. Mentally, every year is different, so you never know what could come up.
DZ: Having been here a while now, do you get recognized a lot when you are out?
FIEN: Not at all.
FIEN: Not one time. Maybe at Manny’s (Steak House) just because the visiting team was there, but that’s about it.
DZ: I read that you had an aunt and uncle that were state senators in California. Is that right?
FIEN: One was a state senator and one was in the House of Representatives. They are the only husband and wife duo (in California State Assembly history).
DZ: Are you into politics much, is that something you could ever see yourself doing?
FIEN: At this point, no. I am a social science major at Cal Poly, but even that doesn’t get you too far. I don’t plan on going that route.
DZ: Did you grow up around (politics)? Were you close to your aunt and uncle?
FIEN: Yeah, we went through the whole going up there and helping them out with their campaigns and stuff. It was fun. It was almost just like a family affair, just another reason to get together.
DZ: Just one last, real hard-hitting question: I saw a picture of you on Twitter in a Teletubbies outfit. What is up with that?
FIEN: That was just rookie initiation. Rookie dress-up day in 2009 (with Detroit). That’s what they dressed us up in. Actually (Tigers TV analyst) Rod Allen is the one who took the picture and he actually got in trouble. (Tigers manager) Jim Leyland didn’t want anyone being pictured. Of course, mine is the only one that got put up (on-line).
DZ: So, you’re the fortunate one, huh?
FIEN: (laughs) Thanks Rod Allen.