So Where Does Stephen Fife Fit In?

You would think that a starting pitcher with an ERA of 2.70 would have been the buzz of the winter meetings and that Ned Colletti would have been on his cell phone non-stop about the guy, but I’d almost be willing to bet that the name Stephen Fife never even came up once in Nashville.

Stephen Fife – you remember him, don’t you? He’s the guy who was rock solid during spring training last year and then went 11-7 in 24 starts with Triple-A Albuquerque. He’s the guy who was pressed into action when Chad Billingsley and eventually Clayton Kershaw went down with injuries. And even though Fife won exactly zero games in his five spot starts, his BAA was .255 and his WHIP 1.39. Now granted, these are not top-of-the-rotation Cy Young kind of numbers, but face it, Fife got absolutely no help whatsoever from his teammates.

Even though Stephen Fife ended the season with an 0-2 record, he could have very easily ended 2012 with a 5-0 record had he been given a little run support. (Photo credit - Victor Decolongon)

Even though Stephen Fife ended the season with an 0-2 record, he could have very easily ended 2012 with a 5-0 record had he been given a little run support. (Photo credit – Victor Decolongon)

When you consider that the two games that Fife lost were both shutouts (4-0 to the D-backs with 2 earned runs and 6-0 to the Reds with 2 earned runs), you would think that the guy would be furious with his teammates – but that is simply not who Stephen Fife is. In fact, because Fife seems to have ice water in his veins and comes across as being extremely calm, I honestly believe that he is incapable of getting angry at his teammates – at least visibly and verbally so. After his two shutout losses, Fife was almost Kershaw-like during his post game interviews saying that he shouldn’t have given up any runs, regardless of what his teammates did – or didn’t do.

Are you kidding me? Come on, Barney (okay, you knew he was going to end up with that nickname) – if you allow only 2 earned runs a game for the rest of your career, you’re going into the Hall of Fame.

Unless you actually were at spring training last season (or followed the spring training games closely on TV or radio), you probably didn’t even know who Stephen Fife was or where he came from.

Fife was born and raised in Boise, Idaho where he attended Borah High School. He went on to college at the University of Utah (Salt Lake) where he was an All-Conference starter for the Utes in 2008. Fife was selected in the 3rd round of the 2008 first year player draft by the Boston Red Sox and made it as high as Double-A within the Red Sox organization.

On July 31, 2011, the (now) 26-year-old Fife was part of a rather complex three-team trade between the Red Sox, Mariners and Dodgers in which the Dodgers sent outfielder Trayvon Robinson to the Mariners and acquired Fife, pitcher Juan Rodriguez and catcher Tim Federowicz from the Red Sox. Fife officially has 34 days of MLB service time and becomes arbitration eligible in 2016 and a free agent in 2019. He is currently on the Dodgers 40-man roster.

Although Fife appeared in only two games during spring training for the Dodgers last season, he allowed only one earned run in his 3 innings of work, while striking out 2 and walking none. He was very effective at keeping the ball down in the zone and clearly had very dominating stuff – certainly enough to put him in the back of Ned Colletti’s mind. This proved to be extremely important on July 17, 2012 when he was suddenly called up to the Bigs to make his major league debut in a spot start for Chad Billingsley, who was forced to miss his start because of elbow inflammation.

Fife pitched exceptionally well in his MLB debut, allowing only one run on 4 hits in 6 innings of work against some guy named Roy Halladay (no pressure here). Yet here again, in spite of Fife’s outstanding pitching performance, the Dodgers managed only 2 runs on 7 hits in an eventual 3-2 loss to the Phillies. Fife did not factor in the decision.

So where do we go from here?

With the Dodgers currently in possession of eight starters (six if you exclude Billingsley and Lilly, who are still “iffy”), there is little doubt that Stephen Fife will once again start the season at Triple-A Albuquerque – at least until… well… you know.



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3 Responses to “So Where Does Stephen Fife Fit In?”

  1. Bluenose Dodger says:

    I would say you have it pretty much cased. Stephen is now simply a clause in an insurance policy, to be used when injury occurs. I guess that is a legitimate use of AAA players but seems a tad unfair to them.

    However, it must be that all MLB teams have suitable 4/5 guys or don’t see Stephen as an option so haven’t come calling. Must be frustrating for players to know they can play at the MLB level but don’t get a good shot at it. I am glad John Ely gets a shot with another team. However, both Lilly and Billingsley are question marks and I really expect Capuano or Harang to be traded.

    It does seem that the trade in which Trayvon Robinson went to the Mariners (later to the Orioles) was a good trade for the Dodgers. Fife can help at the MLB level, Federowicz may well be a back up with the Dodgers and Juan Rodriguez still has a shot at making it to the big time. He has a very good fastball but a common problem – control – walking one per innings last season.

    Hopefully things break right for Stephen this year.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      There is no way that Capuano or Harang will agree to pitch at Albuquerque, so I absolutely expect them to be traded before Opening Day (but more likely within the next two to three weeks).

      As sad as I was to see Trayvon traded away, the Dodgers have, as you noted, done quite well in that trade.

      I have tremendous confidence in Stephen Fife and believe that he is MLB ready right now and could easily be at least a 4 or 5 on any team and probably even a 3 on a couple of teams.

      With A.J. Ellis looking at an arbitration-induced raise in the $2M to $3M range, using Federowicz as his back-up will be a great bargain for the Dodgers. I fully expect the Dodgers to also sign one or two veteran catchers to minor league contracts with invitations to Big league camp, just as they do every year (you need a lot of catchers at spring training because of all of the pitchers in camp). This should be of little concern for A.J. or FedEx, as their spots are, in all probability, pretty much guaranteed (barring a Jerry Sands-type meltdown, that is).

      I imagine that Griff will also at least start spring training with the Big club, but will most likely start the 2013 season at Albuquerque. Not a lot of catching depth behind Griff down on the farm, that’s for sure – Ned traded most of them away over the past few years.

  2. MFGRREP says:

    I for one am glade we have a guy like Fife to fall back on, because it’s just a matter of time when that will happen. I also hope Harang is traded and Capuano stays !!

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