5 things to know about Rays relief ace JP Feyereisen

·5 min read
Ivy Ceballo/Tampa Bay Times/TNS

BALTIMORE — Here is the list of relief pitchers who have made at least 14 appearances or worked more than 13 1/3 innings through Friday’s games without giving up a run:

JP Feyereisen, Rays.

That’s it.

The right-hander acquired a year ago from Milwaukee (with Drew Rasmussen in the Willy Adames trade) not only has been unscored upon, he virtually has been unhittable.

He retired 22 consecutive batters at one point, and in facing 64 overall (through Friday), Feyereisen allowed just four singles — for an .067 opponents average —while striking out 20 in 19 innings over 16 games.

Here are five things to know about him:

The mustache

Feyereisen has pitched clean-shaven, with a short mustache and with a beard. Now he is letting his ’stache grow. He would like to get to a Fu Manchu, but says the left side has been a little stubborn growing down past his lip. He is at least curious about the Rollie Fingers handlebar style and admires other mustachioed players, such as Tigers reliever Andrew Chafin.

“I had a mustache in the 2020 season and it was okay,” he said. “But I didn’t get the full length of time to grow out. So I’m kind of seeing what this one can turn into.”

The fastball

Feyereisen doesn’t throw his fastball that fast — average velocity 92.9 mph — but batters don’t often hit it hard. That’s because he has exceptional carry, which is a way of saying that to hitters his fastball appears to be rising, leading them to often swing under it, resulting in weak contact — flyouts, pop-ups — and misses.

Does his fastball really rise when thrown overhand and downward off a 10-inch mound? No, that’s a myth. But it is different than most (though Rays lefty Colin Poche has a similar weapon).

“It just drops less than everyone else’s,” Feyereisen said.

The deception, a product of his delivery and the way he spins the ball, came naturally, Feyereisen said. And it is something he wasn’t aware of it until he got into pro ball with Cleveland.

“I didn’t know I had it until they started coming out with all these numbers,” he said. “I was throwing fastballs like 90-91 and guys were swinging and missing underneath it in the middle of the zone. All our team is like, ‘What are you doing? You’re throwing balls down the middle and people aren’t hitting them, what’s going on?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know, I’m just throwing a baseball.’”

Feyereisen adds to the mix with a changeup that looks similar coming out of his hand but has the opposite action, and a slider.

“Wisconsin’s finest — all he does is get out after out,” centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. “Hitters don’t look very comfortable. Guys sit there and your eyes tell you it’s in one area and it’s actually not. He has true deception on his pitches, especially his heater. Guys think they’re right on it and they hit right under it.”

The name

Feyereisen’s full name is Jonathon Paul, for his two grandfathers, but he had “pretty much had JP forever.” The reason? “My mom didn’t want people calling me just John, so she said it’s either JP or Jonathon. My dad’s side still calls me Jonathon, my mom’s side, most of them call me JP. But there’s no John. No one calls me John.”

Other relievers, and Rasmussen, will try to poke him by calling him Jonathon, but he doesn’t mind. (Spoiler alert: It’s on the bio for his @jpfeyer20 Twitter account.) He also on occasion gets called “The Pope,” for late Catholic leader John Paul II.

The personality

Pot stirrer is a polite description for Feyereisen’s role in the bullpen, often throwing a jab or telling a joke, setting the tone, agenda, eclectic conversation topics and occasional oddities, such as the day he brought in T-shirts for the team from his dad’s family business, Feyereisen Flooring in River Falls, Wisconsin. “High energy, a character, fun to be around,” reliever Andrew Kittredge said, also noting his consistency and fierce competitiveness.

Feyereisen said he gets his energy — and restlessness — from his parents. His mother, Jana, texted that he grew up that way: “JP has always been high energy in the best ways. Teachers did not always appreciate his energy in the classroom but they loved his heart, his smile and his humor. :-) Teachers would always ask me how do I handle his energy at home and I always told them to make sure to remind him that there would be consequences for unacceptable energy. … His energy always toed the line but he was a great kid, just needed boundaries (that we had to set).”

The Packers

Feyereisen is a huge sports fan, true to his Wisconsin roots. Growing up on the Minnesota side of the state allows him to root hard for the NHL’s Wild (though with their playoff ouster he is now pulling for the Lightning) and to like the NBA’s Bucks and Timberwolves. But nothing can tame his Packers love.

“The Packers are true in blood,” Feyereisen said. “Great that Tom Brady’s here with the Bucs. Congrats. But if they’re playing in the playoffs, I’m going with the Pack all the way. … That’s the one team I’ll never waver from.”

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