Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Rays reliever Pete Fairbanks blames ‘horrible’ baseballs for nightmare outing vs. Rockies

Tampa Bay Rays reliever Pete Fairbanks had a rough afternoon at the office on Friday, walking all three batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth and uncorking a wild pitch against the Colorado Rockies before being pulled from the game. Fairbanks was replaced by Jason Adams, who promptly surrendered a game-winning grand slam to Rockies infielder Ryan McMahon (box score), negating Tampa Bay’s furious ninth-inning rally that saw them plate five runs to take the lead.

Afterward, Fairbanks chalked up his control issues to what he described as low-quality baseballs. 

“They were horrible. You can mark that down in all caps for me: horrible,” Fairbanks told reporters. “That’s what happens when you don’t throw strikes, you get punished for it. So, I’d love to see those come out of the humidor tomorrow in a little better shape before they get rubbed up, but there’s nobody to blame but myself for not being able to adjust to some of the quality issues.”

For those wondering, Coors Field employs a humidor to prevent the baseballs from drying out at the high altitude. In turn, that suppresses (albeit slightly) the run-scoring environment. 

When Fairbanks was asked what, specifically, about the balls he found to his disliking — be it their dryness, smoothness, or some other quality —  he declined to elaborate beyond saying they were “not uniform from ball to ball.” When he was asked if any of his teammates had complained, he responded by saying “you’re about to go ask some other people, you can ask them what they thought of them.”

Thus far, it doesn’t appear that any other Rays pitcher has commented on the quality of the ball. It’s perhaps worth noting that they combined to walk just one batter in 8 1/3 innings of work, suggesting they may not have had the same experience.

Here are Fairbanks’ full comments in video form:

Fairbanks, 30, is in the midst of his sixth big-league season. He entered Friday having previously made 162 appearances with the Rays, during which he had amassed a 2.88 ERA (142 ERA+) and a 3.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Of the 17 pitches he threw on Friday, 12 were called balls. 

The Rockies, by the way, became the first team in MLB history to blow a four-plus-run lead in the top of the ninth and then hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom half of the inning, according to the research of OptaSTATS.

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