When Caleb Ferguson was demoted to triple-A on May 27 after sporting a 14.73 ERA in four previous games for the Dodgers, he took the full three days afforded to players optioned to the minor leagues before reporting to Oklahoma City.
The left-hander spent hours poring over video looking for mechanical flaws that prevented him from throwing his curve effectively. He found none. Then Ferguson suited up for a game at Memphis, went to the field for a game of catch and …
“Something just clicked,” Ferguson said. “To be honest, there’s not really one huge change that I made. It’s kind of funny. I went down there, I was literally just playing catch and felt the best I’ve felt all year. I pretty much took that catch to the mound and ran with it.”
Ferguson, a converted starter who mixes a 94-mph fastball with a 75-mph curve, allowed one hit, struck out 10 and walked one in five innings of four scoreless appearances for Oklahoma City.
With Scott Alexander (forearm inflammation) on the injured list and Julio Urias only available every fourth or fifth day, the Dodgers are leaning heavily on Ferguson as their primary left-hander in the bullpen.
The sooner Ferguson can regain the form the better for the Dodgers. He had a 3.46 ERA in 13 innings of 13 games in the first month before going on the injured list because of a left-oblique strain on April 28.
“He’s really important to our bullpen,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Even when we sent him out before, our message to him was that he’s a big part of what we’re trying to do and we need him right. He has the ability to get lefties and righties out.”
Of the 34 pitches Ferguson threw against the Angels on Tuesday, 31 were fastballs. Three were curves, but the one he threw for a called strike against Wilfredo Tovar in the sixth inning fueled his confidence in his breaking ball.
“I think the curve is back,” Ferguson said. “There are going to be days when not everything feels perfect, but on those days, I feel … better? Before, when I didn’t have it, it wasn’t even close. Now, on days I’m not sure about the curve, I’ll land three out of five as opposed to one out of five. I’m giving myself a better chance.”
Pitching without the stress of blowing a big league game also helped.
“It’s definitely a good mental blow,” Ferguson said of his demotion. “Up here, when you’re struggling, you still have to get guys out, and I was pretty much getting guys out with one pitch. That was not good, and I know that.”
Chris Taylor started at shortstop in place of the injured Corey Seager for a second straight game Friday. Roberts said Enrique Hernandez will play there Saturday night but that Taylor will get “the majority” of starts there while Seager recovers from a left-hamstring strain. “I just think C.T. is very consistent,” Roberts said. … It didn’t take long for Max Muncy’s retort to Madison Bumgarner after the two argued in the wake of Sunday’s splash-hit homer in San Francisco to appear on a T-shirt. Muncy and Hernandez both donned blue shirts on Friday that read, “Go get it out of the ocean.”
Staff writer Jorge Castillo contributed to this report.
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