As recently as the middle of the 2018 season, Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez would routinely get booed by the Dodger Stadium crowd after poor appearances.
But in the last month of the regular season and into the 2018 postseason, Baez developed into one of Dodgers manager Dave Roberts’ most trusted relievers. That continued into the 2019 season, as Baez was among the early standouts.
Baez’s sustained confidence earned him praise from Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen, among other teammates. Roberts has also remained a staunch supporter of the right-hander.
Baez recently noted how the rocky times in his career have contributed to him being a better pitcher in the long run, via Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:
“In spite of the bad moments that have happened, us, as athletes, we always have those moments,” Baez, 31, said in Spanish in a recent, rare interview. “But, thank God, sometimes those moments help us come out better and more focused on finding success and focusing more on going out there and doing things right.”
The key to Baez’s success since he turned things around late in the 2018 season has been the emergence of a dominant changeup. He has always had that pitch, but said his confidence in it has finally grown:
“I had the changeup, but I just didn’t have the confidence that I had at the end of last year and I’ve had at the beginning of this year,” Baez said. “It’s more confidence. I can throw it in any situation. And I’ve been working on my changeup in practice, on flat ground, in the bullpen to continue having success.”
In 28 appearances this season, Baez has gone 2-2 with a 3.29 ERA, 2.89 FIP, 0.88 WHIP, 25 strikeouts and seven walks over 27.1 innings pitched.
His six-year career with the Dodgers has now come full circle as fans no longer boo, but actually cheer him when he enters games as he has been perhaps the team’s most reliable reliever in high-leverage situations so far this season.
Overall in 2019, the Dodgers’ bullpen has been their biggest weakness with many of the team’s relievers like Joe Kelly, Scott Alexander and Caleb Ferguson being inconsistent. For that reason, Baez’s emergence has been extremely important to the team’s success and will continue to be moving forward.