Two years ago, Fernando Abad was a little-known 28-year-old left-handed relief pitcher from the Dominican Republic trying to hang on in the big leagues.
He had a 1-11 record, a career 5.10 ERA and not particular prospects. He threw hard, but that wasn’t enough.
Then he and Rafael Soriano landed in the bullpen of the Washington Nationals at the same time in 2013. Soriano, who had closed for the Braves, the Rays and Tampa before landing in D.C., showed the then-28-year-old a few things.
“Soriano showed me how to throw the sinker,’’ Abad said. “I’m a 100 percent different pitcher now from two years ago because of that.’’
How different? In his first 10 games Abad has allowed two hits, has walked two and has struck out 10. He’s one of just six Major Leaguers to have thrown 10 or more games this season without allowing a run.
“He throws really hard,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. The manager had not seen Abad throw in person before this spring. “His four-seamer comes in at 97. His two-seamer (the sinker) is 92, but it really sinks. He has a power curve, and he’s not afraid to throw a changeup.’’
And the A’s aren’t afraid to use Abad in any situation. He’s not in the mix for the closer’s job, but if the A’s didn’t already have qualified candidates, that might not be the case.
He made the team out of spring training as a situational lefty, someone Melvin could ask to face a tough left-handed bad. He’s been successful doing that, but he’s also been successful against right-handers. Lefties are 0-for-11 against him, but right-handers aren’t getting rich off his stuff – they’re just 2-for-22 heading into Saturday.
“I’m comfortable here now,’’ Abad said. He was acquired in a little-scrutinized deal for minor league outfielder John Wooten before the winter meetings last year. “In spring training it became easy when I started to know the people her and know the manager who lets everybody play. I love it here.’’
He wasn’t supposed to pitch Friday, because Jim Johnson was going to close if the A’s took a lead in the ninth. A one-, two- or three-run lead, that is. The A’s scored seven times in the top of the ninth. Then the game was turned over to Abad, who hit a batter in the way pitchers often do when their own batters get hit, but wasn’t otherwise bothered by the Astros.
“I do the same thing every game,’’ Abad said. “I come into the game and it’s not seven runs (difference). It’s 1-0. It’s always 1-0.’’