Erick Fedde journeyed to the Korea Baseball Organization with the goal of making it back to the major leagues.
“It was somewhere I felt I could work on all my new pitches and get the ball every fifth (or) sixth day there and throw a ton of innings and prove what I had,” Fedde said during a video conference call Thursday.
He proved it — and then some — by earning KBO MVP honors in 2023.
The right-hander officially agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. Reports of a deal first surfaced on Dec. 5.
Fedde, 30, said the opportunity with the Sox means “everything.”
“I had that terrible taste in my mouth about the way my career ended up in the major leagues (in 2022 with the Washington Nationals), and going to Korea, it could be the last taste I ever had of it,” Fedde said. “I really didn’t want that to be how my career ended in the major leagues, and luckily I’m able to pitch well and get a chance again.
“That just gives me that much more fire to make sure I change the way I’m viewed and the narrative around my career and move forward in a positive way.”
The Nationals selected Fedde with the No. 18 pick in the 2014 MLB draft. He spent six seasons with the big-league club, going 21-33 with a 5.41 ERA and 352 strikeouts in 102 games (88 starts) from 2017-22.
He went 6-13 with a 5.81 ERA in 27 starts in 2022.
“That last year, the reality was, unfortunately, that year in spring training I had a little hiccup with health, and I just felt like I was behind the 8-ball from the beginning. I never really felt truly healthy,” Fedde said. “It was tough. My velocity was down, things weren’t sharp.
“It felt like rather than really focusing on being my best, it was just trying to get ready to go out there every five days. And that’s not a fun place to be when it’s a long season.”
Fedde knew things had to change and went to work that offseason. He moved to Arizona and attended the workout facility Push Performance.
“They also had some physical therapists in the facility to get me feeling right and get myself a new repertoire and feeling strong,” Fedde said. “Adding a sweeper, and then just got my changeup figured out and that led me to have a four-pitch mix when I went to Korea and led to a lot of the success.”
His standout numbers included a 20-6 record and a 2.00 ERA in 30 starts for the NC Dinos. He had 209 strikeouts and just 35 walks in 180 1/3 innings.
Fedde allowed only nine home runs and had a 0.95 WHIP.
“You never know how things are going to shake out once real hitters get in the box and you have real at-bats in games,” Fedde said. “So after that first month in Korea when I was having all that success and feeling like I was in command on the mound is when I first realized, ‘I think all the hard work paid off and I’m where I want to be.’”
In addition to the MVP honor, Fedde won the Choi Dong-won Award, which recognizes the KBO’s best pitcher.
“Korea was amazing,” he said. “They treated me really well. The atmosphere is unmatched with the chants and just the way the crowd is. It was a great place for me to go, and I wanted a place where I could throw a ton of innings and work on my things I made adjustments on. Korea really offered that for me.
“I felt like I came in there in the best shape, the best pitching repertoire I ever had, and I had a lot of confidence going in there and I think it led to the success.”
He’ll try to carry that momentum back to the big leagues in Chicago.
“It’s a place I felt I could get into the rotation and help the squad be better and part of the rebuilding of that rotation,” Fedde said.
Sox general manager Chris Getz said a combination of Fedde’s numbers and pitch arsenal stood out.
“It was a tremendous runway for him to make these adjustments,” Getz said during the winter meetings last week in Nashville, Tenn., “and then go to a league where it’s a bit of a major-league environment, from a fans and pressure standpoint. And certainly being a foreigner, it’s never easy. So he’s got a lot of confidence. We see a difference in his stuff.”
Fedde is confident his time in the KBO will translate well to his return to the majors.
“The biggest thing is my last year in D.C., I was not feeling as amazing as I do now,” Fedde said. “I feel strong, I feel healthy. My velocity is back. I feel there’s a sharpness to my pitches that I just didn’t have there at the end of my (Nationals) career.
“I’ve been lucky enough to pitch in the big leagues and I know what it takes to get outs, get swings and misses and be successful. I have a lot of confidence thinking that what I have now is a repertoire that can do that.”