In 2009, Taiwanese relief pitcher Fu-Te Ni was a pleasant surprise for the Detroit Tigers. In 31 innings the rookie southpaw reliever posted an impressive 2.61 ERA and 1.00WHIP.
Despite a miserable spring training last year, Ni was a member of the opening day 25 man roster for the 2010 season. Pulling a complete 180, Ni struggled last season and was eventually removed from the 40 man roster and demoted to AAA-Toledo. He continued to get beat around in Toledo and posted a 7.50 ERA. Opposing batters hit Ni to a tune of .346. Ni was not called up to Detroit when the rosters were expanded in September.
This spring in just over three innings of work, Ni had surrendered zero runs. He also allowed just two base runners while striking out four.
Today Ni entered the game in the fourth inning with a runner on second base. After an eight pitch walk, Ni then induced an inning ending ground ball double play. Ni was then sent out to pitch the fifth inning. A hit and a walk put Ni in a familiar position, this time yielding a much different result. After throwing a wild pitch the runner on third trotted home to score. Ni escaped without any further damage but surrendered his first run of the spring.
So what has changed with Fu-Te Ni? Was 2009 a fluke season? Is it a mechanical issue? Or is Fu-Te Ni just a “AAAA pitcher”?
I honestly believe that Fu-Te Ni is being misused. For the most part Ni is a prototypical LOOGy. In 2009 he was much more successful against left handed batters (.113 vs.289). Also worth noting, the longer he seems to pitch, the more trouble Ni seems to get into.
To simplify things, this spring Ni has been his usual yin & yang self. The walks are still a problem and his splits are quite lop sided. The strikeouts are still there though which keeps me interested in Ni…If of course he’s used as a LOOGy.
Regardless of my amateur assessment of Fu-Te Ni, one thing is clear. Ni needs to turn things up in a hurry or it’s back to Toledo. We are now a week into March he really needs to get things going. He is facing stiff competition this spring from Brad Thomas and John Bale for the final lefty spot in the Tigers bullpen. With Daniel Schlereth still nursing a strained hamstring perhaps one spot becomes two.
It’s definitely time for someone to step up!