Lakeland, Fla. — You couldn’t accurately say he was wide-eyed about any of it.
He’s only 22 and hasn’t thrown a single pitch in professional baseball, and yet somehow right-hander Alex Faedo, the Tigers’ first-round draft pick last June, didn’t act or look out of place throwing alongside Jordan Zimmermann, Alex Wilson, Mike Fiers and other veteran pitchers on Monday.
He certainly wasn’t pinching himself to see if he was dreaming.
“No, I don’t think of it like that,” he said. “I just think of it as a good opportunity.”
Faedo is one of a handful of top prospects the Tigers have invited to big-league camp, but he’s the only one from the 2017 draft class, the only one who has yet to pitch in the minor leagues.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “To be around a lot of guys who know a lot more than me and who have accomplished a lot more than me. I’m just going to pick their brains a little bit and let them help me out with pro ball.”
The Tigers shut down Faedo after drafting him with the 18th overall pick. He had just helped Florida win the College World Series, earning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honors throwing 14.1 scoreless innings with 22 strikeouts.
In total, he threw 121.2 innings last year, so the Tigers took the ball out of his hands for four months.
“It felt like forever,” he said. “It was tough and it was kind of weird. But I came here (to TigerTown in Lakeland) right after and starting working out, running a lot. I stayed for Instructional League and then went home.”
He didn’t begin throwing again until December and even though he threw a bullpen on Monday, he said he’s still taking it slowly.
“I started slow just because I knew I had more extra time than most people,” he said. “I’m still just easing my way into it.”
Faedo is 6-5, 230 pounds and features a fastball (92-95 mph), a wicked slider and a developing change-up. Also, as he showed during the College World Series, he’s a fiery competitor — which was the hardest part of being shut down, not competing.
“I am ready for a real game,” he said. “I try to take my bullpens competitively, but it’s a lot different.”
Pitching coach Chris Bosio didn’t wait for camp to start teaching Faedo. He reached out to him before TigerFest.
“He was with the Cubs, a great organization, great pitchers there and he’s someone who has been around the game a long time,” Faedo said. “He is someone I always like to talk to. He’s dealt with a lot of good arms. I’m kind of blessed to have him here.”
The last time he threw a pitch in a game, Faedo was at the bottom of a championship dog-pile, and on top of the college baseball world. His first actual professional pitch could come in a Class A game.
From the top of rung in college to the very bottom rung in the pros — it could be a rough transition for him.
“I don’t know where I will be starting; I figure I will know like everyone else when it comes down to spring training,” he said. “You just have to learn. Every league has something to teach you.
“I am just trying to stick with what I have. Obviously you always try to make everything better. But I am just going to showcase what I have and the coaches take it from there and tell me what I need to do.”