Halama anxious to mount comeback

Family matters pulled John Halama away from the Majors three years ago. He’s hoping the Brewers offer an opportunity to get back. 

The 37-year-old left-hander earlier this week agreed to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Halama has pitched in 262 Major League games in nine seasons for seven teams but he hasn’t been in a big league camp since 2006, with Baltimore. 

“I’m really thankful that they are giving me an opportunity,” Halama said from the Dominican Republic, where he was set to make his eighth winter league start on Wednesday night. “The way that it was explained to me was that I would come into camp with an opportunity to win a big league job, so I have to be ready to go. 

“That’s all I’ve ever asked, let me have an opportunity to open up some eyes. I’m really excited to get back in the game. I’ve had some personal things go on in my life that affected me and got me out of the game, but now I’m clear-minded and I’m ready to go. I’m getting a second chance, and I’m fully aware of that.” 

If Halama wins a spot on the Major League roster he would draw a $450,000 salary. Otherwise, he would go to Triple-A Nashville as insurance for the Brewers, who fell out of contention in 2009 when they failed to fill spots in the rotation caused by injuries to Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan.

Halama began last season in the independent Atlantic League and was 8-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 69 innings, drawing the interest of the Braves. At Triple-A Gwinnett, Halama was 4-7 with a 4.48 ERA in 13 starts and three relief appearances. He had a 3.69 ERA in his starts. 

Pitching for Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League, Halama entered his start Wednesday night 4-2 with a 1.64 ERA. In seven starts and 44 innings, he had 24 strikeouts and three walks. Both of the losses were in 1-0 games, according to Halama’s agent, Joe Rosario

Brewers amateur scouting director Bruce Seid and assistant scouting director Ray Montgomery happened to be in the Dominican Republic last week so they stopped by to watch Halama work six innings in a win over a Licey lineup that featured eight hitters with at least one game of Major League experience. Halama allowed one run on seven hits. 

“He did what you would expect from a guy with experience and know-how,” Seid said. “He pitched to his strengths with the ability to make adjustments. That’s what experienced pitchers do. He’s in good condition and his arm worked well, and experience takes over for those guys. It’s better than a Triple-A guy who’s 32, 33 but doesn’t have the big league experience.” 

Familiarity helped foster the deal. Halama pitched in Oakland in 2003 under now-Brewers manager Ken Macha and pitching coach Rick Peterson. Before that he pitched four seasons with the Mariners while Chris Bosio was a roving pitching coach for Seattle. Bosio is now a Brewers advance scout. 

Halama said he planned to make two more starts for Aguilas after Thanksgiving before returning to the U.S. He turns 38 on Feb. 22, two days after the formal date for Brewers pitchers and catchers to report for Spring Training. 

“I know it’s going to be different,” Halama said. “The baseball part is probably going to feel weird because I haven’t been in big league camp in so long, but I’m positive that I’ll fit in. It’s going to be a little foreign to me, but not too foreign.”

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