Braddock overcoming physical, mental hurdles

Brewers pitching prospect Zach Braddock has been healthy this season, both in body and mind, and some promising results have followed.

The Brewers promoted Braddock to Double-A Huntsville on Wednesday after the left-hander posted a 1.14 ERA and 40 strikeouts versus just four walks in 14 relief appearances at Class A Brevard County. Opponents hit .143 against the hard-throwing Braddock.

Braddock has been limited by physical injuries since the Brewers drafted him in the 18th round of the 2005 Draft and by a bipolar disorder that requires medication. But in terms of pure “stuff,” he’s a bona fide Major League prospect.

“He can dominate,” Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. “There have been a number of reports this year [that say] he could pitch in the big leagues. He has that kind of dominating stuff. Obviously, being left-handed helps. It’s a matter of being consistent, like it is with a lot of young guys.”

Assuming he stays physically and mentally healthy, Braddock could move fast through the system. He turns 22 on Aug. 23.

“Which is why we moved him to Double-A, to get him to that next level,” Ash said.

Club officials help “monitor” Braddock, Ash said. That involves making sure he takes the proper medication at the proper time.  

“He’s in a very good spot,” Ash said. “He’s monitored, and he’s had no issues at all. … He’s in a good place.”

In other Minor League transactions Wednesday:

– Right-hander Rob Wooten joined Braddock in a move from Brevard County to Huntsville. Wooten doesn’t possess the raw tools of Braddock, but, “If you throw strikes, you’ve got a chance,” Ash said. “Chris Smith shows it now.”

– The Brewers promoted right-hander John Axford from Double-A Huntsville to Nashville to replace right-hander Mike Burns, who went to Milwaukee to join the starting rotation. Axford has been rising fast; he pitched in just four games for Huntsville after a promotion from Brevard County.

– Class A Wisconsin closer Jim Henderson was promoted to Brevard County after going 17-for-17 in save chances. Henderson is a veteran Minor Leaguer.

– Right-hander Omar Aguilar is not, which made it somewhat disappointing when he was demoted from Huntsville to Brevard County. Aguilar, who is on Milwaukee’s 40-man roster, had a 7.71 ERA in 23 relief appearances.

“Player development will do this,” Ash said. “There are surprises upward, and there are surprises downward. We had [Jeremy] Jeffress, [Alex] Periard and Aguilar, all guys we’re high on but all who will end up in A-ball right now. Then there’s guys who have taken a step forward. Axford has taken a step forward. Josh Butler has taken a step forward. Braddock. Chris Cody. Several guys have taken a step.”

– Right-hander R.J. Seidel, a Wisconsin native, will begin a throwing program at the Brewers’ baseball facility in Arizona later this week. He’s ahead of schedule after undergoing offseason surgery for a torn ACL. Seidel told the Brewers he hurt his knee slipping on some ice.

“He’ll salvage a month or so of the season,” Ash said.

– Right-hander Mike Jones, on the Huntsville DL with a medical issue that Ash said was of a personal nature, will throw a bullpen session to see how he feels before potentially returning to action next week. 

– Left-hander Chris Capuano, rehabbing from the second Tommy John surgery of his career, threw his first bullpen session this week and hasn’t had another setback, Ash said. Capuano still faces a long road; he’ll have to throw several bullpens, then a series of live batting practice sessions before he’s cleared to pitch in a game. That probably won’t happen until the end of August, just as the Minor League seasons are ending.

“It’s just a long, slow grind,” Ash said. “He gets full marks for grinding it out.”

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