TRENTON– On July 2, 2018, the Trenton Thunder took on the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in the fourth game of their five-game series.
The temperature at first pitch was 94 degrees but felt like 106, yet that didn’t bother Thunder left-handed reliever Caleb Frare, who pitched 2.1 innings of no-hit ball, in long sleeves.
“I just love to sweat so the more you can sweat I guess that’s why I wear long sleeves,” Frare said. “I’m comfortable in that.”
The only thing hotter than the weather the past few days in Trenton is Frare himself.
In 38 innings pitched this year, Frare has an ERA of 0.71, an opposing batting average of .180, a WHIP of 0.92, and 52 strikeouts.
“He’s got big league stuff,” Trenton Thunder manager Jay Bell said. “He’s got a terrific fastball, an excellent breaking ball and a pretty nice changeup too, so he is certainly capable of doing what he’s doing, and the numbers have proven that this year, I don’t think anybody ever expects a reliever to have a 0.71 ERA at this stage of the year.”
“I worked hard to get these results,” Frare said. “But you know baseball; sometimes the results go your way. Sometimes they don’t, and for this first half of the season, the games have gone my way, the results have happened in my favor, and my teammates have backed me up. My guys behind me have made some amazing defensive plays to help keep my ERA low, but I feel like I’m doing my job not giving away free passes and not letting guys on base.”
Walking batters has been a problem of Frare’s the last few seasons, most notably last year where he allowed 52 free passes, the most in his career in one season.
“We talked about pounding the strike zone, getting after hitters, the better the pitcher, the better the command,” Bell said. “But he’s gone from halves to thirds to quarters in the strike zone, and he’s starting to play with the edges a little bit, he’s been very effective and very controlled this year, he’s been good.”
Frare said that his primary focus in the offseason wasn’t his command or necessarily anything with his physical game, but more so his faith.
“I went home this offseason, tried to throw harder and tried to fix my relationship with God,” Frare said. “Last year I got off-track, and that’s where my biggest problem was, I’d show up to the field, have anxiety about what was going to happen that night, and I fixed my relationship with God, spent time with him more, read more and that was my biggest difference this year.”
Apart of that could be the fact that Frare has been so far away from home the last four years since he came off of Tommy John surgery in 2012 and got back to pitching in competitive games in 2015.
Frare hails from Miles City, Montana, a town of roughly 8,500 people, located 1,885 miles from ARM & HAMMER Park.
“I’ve never been with this much traffic before,” Frare said. “It’s crazy, you go to Montana, and you’ll drive 20 miles without seeing anybody, so it’s crazy, it’s completely different but this past winter we got down to -40 and it’s 97 and thunderstorms right now, so it’s very similar to this weather, it’s just not quite as humid.”
As a student at Custer County High School, Frare was mostly used as a reliever, making an occasional spot-start once in a while, but in pro ball, he’s always been used as a reliever, but never a closer in the back-end of the bullpen like he is now. He only has three saves but was just promoted to the role a few weeks ago.
Even though he’s in the back-end of the bullpen, Frare can still be used in the middle innings, like he was in the July 2 game as he pitched in the sixth, seventh and recorded one out in the eighth before he was taken out for James Reeves.
“He can still throw multiple innings, so he’s good for three touches whereas Reeves is good for maybe two,” Bell said. “Based upon where we were in the game, both of those guys are back end of the bullpen guys, so it didn’t matter who was going to be in to finish it out.”
Along with Frare, Reeves is also another southpaw out of the Trenton bullpen having an excellent season. Before rough four-run outing on July 2, Reeves’ ERA was 1.51 and has now gone up to 2.43, still an impressive ERA at this point in the season.
Stephen Tarpley was another lefty who was having a dominant year in Trenton with an ERA of 1.26 before getting called up to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes/Barre on June 29.
“Reeves, Tarpley and I have all been throwing fantastic out of this bullpen as have the other guys and it’s just a matter of proving consistency,” Frare said. “I don’t know what they need up in Triple-A, Tarpley can go three, four, even five innings sometimes and I’ve never gotten that opportunity, so maybe that’s why he went up, but I don’t pay attention too much to that.”
As Bell eluded to, he thinks Frare has “big league stuff” and with the Trade Deadline approaching, Frare, Reeves and Tarpley could all be subject to being apart of trade talks or they might be selected in the Rule 5 Draft as lefties out of the bullpen are mostly used to be “lefty specialists” in the majors.
Frare’s average against lefties this year is .182, but his average against right-handed hitters is .179, both very superb numbers.
“I’ve struggled with that in years past,” Frare said. “My lefty numbers haven’t been as good as they should be and this year I’ve really taken pride in how I do against left-handed hitters, making sure that if they do put the ball in play, it’s very weak contact, either softly hit on the ground or softly hit in the air.”
As the season goes on, it’s unclear whether Frare will be dealt or called up to SWB, but as far as he concerned, he’s just happy that the summer months have arrived and he’ll be able to sweat more.
“The hotter, the better,” Frare said.