Though we’re only 10 games through the season, Caleb Ferguson is pitching better than he ever has during his three-year run with the Dodgers. He’s faced 10 batters so far, striking out half of them, while allowing only one hit.
When coming up through the minor leagues, Ferguson had one goal in mind. Be a starting pitcher at the big-league level. During his minor-league career, he appeared in 77 games, but started 51 of them. When he was called up by the Dodgers, the initial plan was for him to be a starter. However, they thought he’d thrive better as a reliever, and that’s where his role has been ever since.
“I’m sticking to all my strengths now,” Ferguson said when asked about his hot start to the season. “I’ve finally realized the kind of pitcher I am and what I do best. I go out and do that every single time out. I trust the guy behind the plate and I know my stuff is going to be better that day than the hitter.
Seeing how successful I was in 2018 and last year how much I sucked, this year I’m just getting back into what I was doing in 2018. Not trying to do too much and overthink it. At the end of the day, all we’re doing is throwing a ball, so can’t think about it too much.”
After a really impressive rookie campaign, Ferguson struggled in 2019. His ERA was 4.84, and he posted a FIP of 5.05 and a WHIP of 1.478. The worst part was his command, as he was averaging more than five walks per nine innings.
He definitely isn’t overthinking it this year, as he’s accepted that being a reliever is what will likely keep him in the big leagues for years to come. “I was very outspoken about wanting to be a starter,” he said when asked if he likes being a reliever full-time now. “I never thought I would be questioning that... I think starting is fun, but I think throwing leverage innings in the back end of a bullpen is a lot of fun too. Those guys are talked about just as much. I love starting, but I also love throwing in a close game.”
Ferguson has been working on this new cutter/slider pitch that he wants to try and perfect. He said that coming out of spring training it was working really well, but after quarantine happened he lost the pitch. However, once summer camp resumed, it was good to go again.
“It’s still a work in progress,” he said. “Each day it gets better. I think it’s more of a consistency thing and being able to throw it where I want with the action and velocity. Everything I’m looking for is there, now it’s the execution of it.”
Ferguson said that he was able to stay active during quarantine, as there was a group of him and other pitchers that stayed together. There was a place they’d go where Ferguson threw to live hitters twice a week. He would try and do something off a mound as many as three times a week in order for him to stay ready and in shape.
“It’s nice to finally see those results start to play out,” Ferguson said. “The work is not done, there’s still a lot of stuff I need to accomplish. The long term goal here is to win the World Series. Once that is accomplished, we’ll get to the next thing. I just got to keep doing what I’m doing every day and staying available.”