added 2/28/2011 by Bob Hulsey
When a non-roster invitee is spotlighted by the Associated Press on the first day of camp, you know there must be a fine story behind it.
Meet Casey Fien, who was signed by the Astros on a recommendation from college teammate Bud Norris. The 6-2 righty from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo is a longshot to make the parent club but his goal this spring is just to stay with one team for awhile.
Last year, Fien made a journey from the Detroit camp to the Boston site to the Toronto club and back to Detroit in a dizzying month of spring waiver moves and doctor exams.
The Tigers placed the hurler, age 26 at the time, on waivers early in camp then he was claimed on March 1st, 2010 by the Red Sox. He didn't pitch while doctors debated whether his arm was in good shape.
"They got my medical report, which they didn't have before they signed me," claimed Casey, "and they were just afraid that I was going to blow out. I had an MRI done and some doctors said I was fine and others said I wasn't."
Of course, he was Fien. It says so right on his birth certificate. But try convincing a bunch of doctors of that.
So the Red Sox decided to release Casey and he was claimed on March 4th by the Blue Jays. More chaos ensued and Fien did not get into a Grapefruit League game. On March 18th, the Blue Jays decided to cut their losses and released Casey. Two days later, the Tigers re-signed him. By that time, there were only ten days left to spring training so Fien was demoted to AAA Toledo without throwing a pitch in exhibition action.
As Milo would say, "Holy Toledo!"
While being a Mud Hen most of the year, Fien was twice called up by the Tigers, pitched in one game each, and was then sent back to the minors. His 10.13 ERA made his career mark in The Show a 0-1 record with an 8.46 ERA. After the season, the Tigers released him again.
Norris convinced the Astros that Fien has great command of his pitches, even though he's given up six walks in 14 big league innings.
So the fine Fien finds himself behind as he hopes to impress a new set of baseball brass to give him another shot at the brass ring. And if the Astros release him, where else will you try to catch on, Casey?
But before he gets the Royal treatment, perhaps Casey should introduce himself to another non-roster invitee in Astros camp: Jose Carlos Thompson. The infielder has no professional experience but he inked a $250,000 contract with Houston after batting .440 for Western Oklahoma State where he delivered a Ruthian 1.313 OPS. Thompson got to Altus, Oklahoma from Cuba via Woburn, Massachusetts. Now, THAT's some culture shock right there. Good luck finding a place that serves plantains in Altus.
Which ought to tell you how hard the Astros are working to replenish the talent in their organization. Fien is not Bud Norris but he at least knows Bud Norris. Thompson is not Aroldis Chapman but he at least knows Aroldis Chapman. Apparently, you just have to be a friend of a good player now to get an invite to Astros training camp.
At least there shouldn't be any further pity for Brett Wallace bouncing from the Cardinals to the A's to the Blue Jays to the Astros in a span of two years after these two are done explaining how they got to Kissimmee. And that's fine with me.