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.
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.