Red Sox Q&A: Durbin Feltman on COVID-19, his poor 2019, and his future

My Q&A with Red Sox prospect Durbin Feltman.

In the third round of the 2018 MLB draft, the Boston Red Sox selected right-handed reliever Durbin Feltman out of Texas Christian University. Feltman excelled as TCU’s closer, recording a 2.04 ERA in three seasons. He finished his collegiate career with 32 saves and a K/9 north of 13. He only gave up three home runs in 88.2 IP and never allowed more than 12 earned runs in a season.

Last season at Double-A Portland, Feltman struggled. Everything had been trending in the right direction for the then 22-year-old. He had dominated across all levels of Single-A. However, in 2019 with the Sea Dogs, he finished with a 5.26 ERA across 51.1 IP. He surrendered 31 walks, 8 home runs, and 30 earned runs.

I recently connected with Durbin via social media and asked him about his struggles last season, quarantine, baseball, and more.

EM: I’ll start with how have you been passing the time without baseball?

Feltman: I’ve been passing time any way I can honestly. I’ve been trying to sell my old 67 Mustang, so I’ve worked on that a little bit, but I’ve mostly spent my time staying in shape with workouts and throwing. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time by my pool.

EM: With COVID-19, there will not be a minor league season. How’s this reality affected you?

Feltman: Without a minor league season this year I’ve just been treating this quarantine as if it was an extended spring training. I’ve been able to throw live to hitters, so it’s been easier to treat it as such.

EM: Last year in AA, you didn’t have the best year. You finished with a 5.26 ERA and a WHIP over 1.4. You walked 31 batters and scouting reports seemed to attribute the down year to your fastball command. Have you changed anything with your windup or strategy since last season?

Feltman: Last year walks were my downfall and I definitely attribute that to fastball command. Since then I’ve gone to throwing only out of the stretch as well as tinkering with my delivery to make it simpler and more repeatable. This has helped tremendously with not only fastball command but also with my off-speed. It helped me get back to what I feel is my normal delivery and normal self.

EM: It’s no secret that you have two really strong pitches in your fastball and slider. When you take the mound next, whenever that might be, do you plan on utilizing your curveball a bit more? I know early last season you began throwing it a bit more but resorted back to the slider at the end of the year.  

Feltman: Yeah, I’ve been working on utilizing my curveball more and I feel that I can use it as a wipeout pitch. However, when crunch time comes, I fall back on my strengths which are my fastball and slider.

EM: How have you been staying in shape and conditioning during COVID?

Feltman: I’ve been lucky to have a private workout facility very close to my house. So, I’ve been able to go over there every day and get my throwing and workouts in. It also helps that my little brother is a catcher so I can get bullpens in as well.

EM: Finally, if everything continues going right for you, what would eventually playing at Fenway Park mean to you?

Feltman: Playing at Fenway I feel like is every player’s dream. I grew up watching superstars play there and learned about the legends who played there in the past. It’s such a historical park and being able to be one of the players that toes the rubber would just be unreal.

His biggest weapon without a doubt is his fastball and slider combination. Sox Prospects has this to say about Feltman.

“Potential middle reliever with a power fastball/slider combo. Ceiling of a late-inning reliever, but 2019 struggles made it seem less likely he will reach that ceiling. Both fastball and slider show plus potential at their best. Fastball command will be key to development going forward, as well as whether he gets comfortable throwing it up in the zone or not.”

Next: MLB close to agreement with players on 2020 season

If he can get command of his fastball and work in his curveball a bit more, it’s reasonable to assume that we’ll see Feltman in the majors soon. Aside from Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman, the Red Sox bullpen is incredibly thin. They’ll certainly be looking for bullpen help from within soon.