The Pirates have seen Antonio Bastardo struggle with his consistency this year in the majors. They’ve also been rumored to be looking at relief options on the trade market, although there is no indication they’re looking to replace Bastardo. If they do want to eventually make a switch, and if they don’t add someone from the outside, they’ve got an interesting option currently in Triple-A.
Bobby LaFromboise is having a good year in Indianapolis, although the overall numbers don’t exactly show how good he has been. He’s got a 2.95 ERA in 39.2 innings, with a 37:18 K/BB ratio. Those numbers are inflated by two bad appearances where he combined to give up six earned runs in just one inning of work. In his last 14 outings, he has given up just one run in 13.1 innings of work, with a 12:5 K/BB ratio.
The lefty credits his success to some small mechanical changes and his teammates for staying on him to keep them up.
“I think that I am just staying back a little more,” LaFromboise said. “I have had a lot of help with guys telling me if I am doing something different to kind of get me back on track. I am just getting back in the grove of things and feeding off of everybody else.”
Along with the mechanics, LaFromboise has seen stronger stuff lately than he had at the beginning of the season.
“My slider has been working a lot better lately than earlier in the season,” LaFromboise said. “Earlier in the season, it was a little bit loopy and it just wasn’t consistent. It is getting more consistent now and it feels a lot better. Because I have that and the changeup, that is starting to come around too, it makes my fastball better. My fastball is moving a little bit more and I have been able to control it better.”
The control has actually been the main bugaboo, and what allowed the Pirates to claim LaFromboise in the first place last season on waivers.
This has also been no different this season, as he has walked 18 hitters in 39.2 innings of relief. While the league is hitting just .196 against him, the walks certainly put his back against the wall with base runners out there.
Over the recent 13-plus inning hot stretch, LaFromboise’s control has been much more dialed in as well, as he has walked five in the span. Over the same timeframe, he has struck out 12 hitters, pushing him up to 37 for the season.
“When you feel that you have more control, you feel like you can do a little bit more with the baseball,” he said. “It allows you to throw more quality pitches and in turn, it gets you out of innings a lot quicker and you save bullets in the arm.”
Another stat that is staggering for LaFromboise is the success that left-handed hitters have seen against him. For the season, lefties are hitting .246 against him, while righties are hitting just .169 against him. This is a trend that visibly frustrates LaFromboise, but one that he feels like there is some progress that has been made.
“I am not a fan of that stat [with getting lefties out],” LaFromboise said. “Obviously, I want to get every lefty out. I think that in this run, I have been doing a lot better against lefties. Right now, I have just been having success against both and I am hoping to keep it that way.”
Despite the slow start, LaFromboise has put himself in the position to be big league bullpen assistance again this season. The Pirates used him as a September call-up last year, making him their third lefty out of the bullpen. Regardless of what happens with Bastardo, he would be in line for the same role this year when rosters expand. However, in order to help the big league squad, he has to see the success against left-handed hitters that he has seen lately, while also continuing to limit his walks. Clearly, that will be his bread and butter.