Fien sees stability after rocky road to Majors

Reliever marvels at being one of longest-tenured Twins, considering steps it took to get here

Fien sees stability after rocky road to Majors

MINNEAPOLIS -- While his Twins Winter Caravan teammate Byron Buxton took a straightforward route to the Majors as a former No. 2 overall Draft pick, Casey Fien's road to becoming a solid big league reliever was a bit more unconventional.

It saw him pitch at three different colleges before being drafted by the Tigers in the 20th round of the 2006 Draft. He ended up pitching in the Majors briefly in 2009 with Detroit before a wild Spring Training in '10 that saw him claimed by both the Red Sox and Blue Jays before ultimately going back to the Tigers.

He reached the Majors again that year, but was released after the season and signed a Minor League deal with the Astros in 2011. He didn't get back to the Majors that year and was pitching for Guasave in the Mexican Winter League hoping for an invitation to Major League camp when the Twins called and offered him a non-roster invite.

Fien started 2012 with Triple-A Rochester, but he was called up by the Twins in early July and hasn't looked back. He's been a dependable reliever for Minnesota ever since, posting a 3.54 ERA with 206 strikeouts in 237 2/3 innings over the past four seasons.

"That's what you hope for," Fien said. "I just wanted an opportunity to see what I could do. I had a rough go of it in Detroit. But I didn't do the right things. It's not that I caught with the wrong people, but I had to do my job and I didn't understand it. I didn't do video or anything like I do now. I think being older and having a wife and kids has helped me a lot."

Fien, 32, has settled down with his wife, JoAnn, and daughter, Jordan, and the couple is expecting their second child on Feb. 29. Fien is now one of Minnesota's veterans, and he signed a $2.275 million deal to avoid arbitration on Jan. 15. He said it's still hard to believe he's one of the longest-tenured Twins, especially after all that it took to get to this point.

"That hasn't sunk in yet; I think being 32 has sunk in more," Fien said with a laugh. "But it's one of those things as a veteran, you have to lead by example. I'm not a vocal guy. But hopefully how I work and my work ethic, some of the younger guys will see that."

Fien finished last season strong, posting a 3.09 ERA in the second half, including a 0.96 ERA in 18 2/3 innings in August. His struggles came when he wasn't healthy, as he missed 25 games in May with a shoulder strain and was out of action for the final three games of the year with elbow inflammation.

Fien, though, said his elbow is healthy now, as he had an MRI exam early in the offseason that revealed no damage. The elbow recovered with rest and rehab. He's kept busy with his start-up company, QVO, which is a social media polling application that is currently available to the public, but is still receiving funding from investors. But now his focus is more on baseball, with pitchers and catchers set to report on Feb. 21 in Fort Myers, Fla.

"I feel healthy," Fien said. "My arm feels good. I've been working on a few things. Maybe need to mix in my curveball a bit more. So I feel great coming in."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.