How Fry has evolved into one of the White Sox' most valuable relievers

Between games last week, White Sox relief pitcher Jace Fry made sure to keep an eye on the College World Series and his former school, Oregon State.

After losing Game 1 of the best-of-three final series against Arkansas, the Beavers won back-to-back games to earn their third national championship and first since 2007.

"They've had a great year," Fry said. "It didn't surprise (me) though, with the returning players they had."

Fry pitched for Oregon State from 2012 until 2014. The White Sox selected the 6-foot-1, 190-pound left-hander in the third round of the 2014 draft. Fry pitched 6⅔ innings as a September call-up last season, and things didn't go well for him. He finished the season with a 10.80 earned run average.

Flash forward to 2018: Fry has established himself as one of the team's best relief pitchers. Manager Rick Renteria has continually used him in high-leverage situations in the seventh and eighth innings.

Since he was called up to the White Sox in early May, Fry has a 2.49 ERA in 25⅓ innings. He has struck out 32 and walked 11.

According to FanGraphs, he has relied more heavily on his 87-mile-per-hour slider this year than he did last September. Left-handed batters have had a difficult time solving Fry, hitting .067 against him with a 40.8 percent strikeout rate.

Fry is embracing his role in the Sox pen, even if he didn't think he would earn it so soon.

"When I first got called up, I wasn't expecting it to happen so quick," Fry said. "I was throwing the ball well and they threw me in some innings that mattered and I was just getting ahead of batters and getting outs."

He feels he has found a comfort zone on the mound and in the clubhouse. The 24-year-old fits in nicely with one of the youngest rosters in baseball.

Fry, who was a starting pitcher at Oregon State, noted that playing for the Beavers prepared him for those key innings at the big league level.

"Especially as starters, they let you ride out and grind through some innings," Fry said. "It all helps, especially pitching in different environments in college. It all translates to this level."

He has never played with White Sox 2018 first-round draft pick Nick Madrigal, who came to Oregon State two years after Fry left. Fry did see the Beavers play during spring training, when Oregon State was in Arizona.

He said Madrigal, the No. 4-overall pick who officially signed with the Sox on Sunday, has an "impressive" eye at the plate.

"His eye is extremely advanced for college baseball," Fry said. "His defense, I think, is big-league ready. His barrel control, also. He's just a great ballplayer. That's why they took him fourth overall."

Fry returned to Corvallis, Oregon, in the offseason and was a guest speaker at an OSU baseball team fundraiser.

"It was good to see all the coaches out of the environment of them being my coach," Fry said. "It was nice to just talk to them about life, stuff like that. It was good to see the kids, too. They were all levelheaded and pretty humble."

• Twitter: @sean_hammond

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