Columbus Clippers reliever Frank Herrmann isn’t your ordinary baseball player. He is a Harvard graduate, high school basketball legend, and two-time Cleveland Indians fantasy football league champion. This history of winning on and off the diamond has many optimistic as he tries to return to form following Tommy John surgery in 2013. Unfortunately, Herrmann will try to rebuild his career in another organization, as he was released on Sunday evening.
Signed by the Indians as a non-drafted free agent in 2005 out of Harvard University, the 6-4, 220-pound right-hander quickly became known as a power pitcher who could go deep in games, finishing third among Cleveland minor leaguers in innings pitched (146) in 2007 and second (150) in 2008.
Herrmann started the 2009 campaign in Double-A Akron and went 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA in his first five starts, earning a promotion to Triple-A Columbus. Prior to being called up, Herrmann was strictly a starting pitcher, making 83 career starts in his first three professional seasons. That would change in Columbus where he began pitching out of the bullpen. The big righty saw success immediately, going 2-3 with a 2.96 ERA with two saves while stranding 78% of inherited runners.
In 2010, Herrmann picked up right where he left off in 2009, overpowering Triple-A hitters with a 94 mph fastball and mid-80s slider. A 3-0 start and jaw-dropping 0.31 ERA in his first 19 appearances out of the bullpen paved the way for his major league debut on June 4 against the Chicago White Sox. Herrmann looked at home under the big lights, holding the opposition scoreless through his first seven appearances and notching his first big league save on July 1. He remained with the Indians for the remainder of the season, finishing fourth on the team with 31 inherited runners (stranding 21), in just 40 appearances.
The Rutherford, New Jersey native spent a vast majority of the 2011 season in Cleveland, posting a perfect 4-0 record and 5.11 ERA in 40 appearances. That high ERA to go along with a .302 opponent batting average landed him back in Columbus in 2012. Herrmann struggled in Columbus, going just 2-2 with a 4.78 ERA. However, Herrmann returned to the majors in September and showcased an effective spike curve that he picked up from Cody Allen, limiting hitters to a .179 batting average while cruising to a 2.33 ERA in just 15 big league appearances that season.
The Indians had high hopes for Herrmann entering the 2013 campaign, but after suffering a torn UCL in his right elbow in spring training, Herrmann underwent Tommy John surgery and would miss the entire season.
After extensive rehab with teammate Josh Tomlin (Tommy John), Herrmann reported to Columbus for the 2014 season and has struggled to find that promising 2012 form.
“It’s weird,” said Herrmann. “There are good days and bad days with it. Last year Josh Tomlin and I rehabbed together. You would watch every game and think how is this guy missing that spot or it’s going to be so easy when I come back and everything’s going to fall into place.”
While Tomlin has shown glimpses of success in an up and down return, that hasn’t been the case for Herrmann. In 28 appearances in Columbus, he’s 1-1 with a 6.37 ERA.
“It’s interesting because the day after I throw my arm will feel good but if I have three days off it will be sore,” said Herrmann. “Sometimes that’s not the case.”
While his comeback attempt isn’t going as smoothly as he’d like, he understands where he’s at and that he has a lot of work to do.
It’s definitely interesting getting back, especially as a power pitcher,” said Herrmann. “I think it’s a little bit tougher for me than a guy like Josh who has the ability to roll out of bed and pitch so I think that each guy’s comeback is kind of unique.”
Another reason to believe that Herrmann will overcome this obstacle is the fact that he’s been a winner all his life – on and off the baseball field.
At the time of his signing with Cleveland, he was not finished with his studies at Harvard, so the Indians allowed him to return and finish his degree.
Frank’s also a two-time winner of the Cleveland Indians fantasy football league.
“I won it in 2010 in my first year,” said Herrmann. “I won it in 2011 and then last year I lost to Vinnie Pestano in the finals. I had a couple bad weeks. I really enjoy playing. It’s something my college roommates and I got into and we’ve had a keeper league for seven years now.”
There’s always room on Herrmann’s roster for fellow Harvard alum and current Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, right?
“Ryan Fitzpatrick has not been on my team as of yet,” said Herrmann. “But we’ll see he’s got some better weapons this year in Houston. If things get dire I might look his way.”
Herrmann also gave me some insight on just how competitive fantasy football is amongst the players.
“It’s funny,” said Herrmann. “I tell people how Travis Hafner and I wouldn’t really talk to each other. I mean here and there during the season – as much pleasantries than anything else – and in the offseason we would text each other three times a day every day because he’s also a big fantasy football guy. I get into it. I really like the end of the year. It keeps the competitive juices flowing through the offseason. It’s a good way to keep in touch with guys.”
Herrmann was winning long before his studies at Harvard and fantasy football titles. He starred in baseball, football, and basketball at Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, New Jersey, where he was one of his basketball team’s few 1,000 point scorers.
“I don’t anymore because I feel like I’ll blow my knee out or something,” said Herrmann when asked if he still balls. “But interestingly enough, one of the other guys on my high school’s 1,000 point list below me is Kyrie Irving. However, footnote, what I usually don’t tell everybody is that Kyrie only went there two years because he switched to St. Patrick’s, which is a basketball powerhouse in New Jersey. His family and him started to realize that he might be pretty good at this and not just private school in New Jersey good, so, Kyrie was there. He’s also on that list, but below me.”
Not many people can say they played professional baseball, graduated from Harvard, and scored more points in high school than Kyrie Irving. But Frank Herrmann can. It’s this history of winning that has us optimistic as he fights to get back to the big leagues for the first time since 2012.
Photo: Columbus Clippers