Dudley native battling bullpen bumps in Double-A
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In his first season at the Double-A level, Aaron Fossas got off to a strong start but has struggled in most of his last several outings.
The right-handed reliever had worked a combined six scoreless innings to open the season before yielding two runs in a second innings of work on April 16. Fossas rebounded nicely the next time out, three days later, by working three scoreless innings and fanning four. At that point in the season, he had posted a 2-1 record with a 1.93 ERA and 0.86 WHIP for the Chattanooga Lookouts, the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.
Then came a disastrous thumping against the Tennessee Smokies on April 23. With the Lookouts trailing 5-3 in the fourth inning, Fossas was brought into the ballgame and was quickly knocked around. He gave up a leadoff single to Robert Caro, who immediately stole second base before advancing to third base on a Clayton Daniel single. Jared Young and Robel Garcia each doubled before P.J. Higgins kept the pressure on with a base hit of his own. After Fossas struck out Charcer Burks, Connor Myers added a RBI double — the third of the last five batters faced to do so — before Jhonny Pereda pushed Higgins across on a fielder’s choice. Before the inning was over, the Smokies had added five runs to the scoreboard. They would add one more in the ensuing inning and Fossas was pulled after 1 2/3 innings of work, charged with six runs on eight hits and a walk. His 1.93 ERA had ballooned to 6.55, a swelling risk to all relief pitchers, especially in the early parts of the season.
Undeterred, Fossas bounced back nicely just three days later as he worked a scoreless inning of relief against the Biloxi Shuckers on April 26. Three days after that, however, Fossas wouldn’t have such luck in another appearance against Biloxi.
On April 29, Fossas was called upon to start the seventh inning with the Lookouts leading the Shuckers 4-3 in Chattanooga. His outing started positively as Biloxi’s Patrick Leonard was retired on a foul pop up to first base, but it would prove to be the only out Fossas recorded that night. Luis Aviles Jr. drew a walk and, after a mound visit, Max McDowell was hit by a pitch. Devin Williams followed with a RBI double and the bases were then loaded when Fossas hit Michael O’Neill with a pitch. The game was tied, the bases were loaded, and there was just one out. Fossas was removed from the game, replaced by Wyatt Strahan on the pitcher’s mound. The remaining baserunners would each score as Strahan worked through the final two outs of the inning, resulting in Fossas being charged with four runs on the evening.
On Saturday, May 4, Fossas was again unable to quiet opposing bats. The right-hander was called upon to start the seventh inning with Chattanooga ahead of the Birmingham Barons, 7-2. The first three batters he faced each singled, loading the bases and putting a potential game-tying run in the on deck circle. After a mound visit, Fossas was able to get Luis Gonzalez to fly out to center field, shallow enough to prevent Laz Rivera from tagging up and trying to score from third base. Chattanooga then gave Fossas the hook, but he would remain responsible for the three baserunners. Joel Kuhnel took over for Fossas and was able to record an out right away, but it came on a sacrifice fly that allowed Rivera to score. Kuhnel would later uncork a wild pitch allowing another run to score before closing out the inning. Ultimately, Fossas was charged with two runs on three hits in one-third of an inning.
In nine relief outings this season, the 26-year-old Fossas owns a 2-2 record with a hefty 9.95 ERA and 1.82 WHIP. The Lookouts wrap up a five-game road trip in Birmingham on Sunday evening before returning to Chattanooga for a 10-game homestand against the Tennessee Smokies and Pensacola Blue Wahoos. For Fossas, perhaps a return to AT&T Field in Chattanooga will help him get back on the right track.