The Brewers appear to have settled on a role for left-handed pitching prospect Zach Braddock. He’s bound for Triple-A Nashville to work out of the bullpen.
“It’s certainly looking that way,” Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said.
And why not, considering the recent success Braddock has enjoyed in relief? Arm injuries prompted the Brewers to put the power lefty on a closely-monitored relief schedule in 2009, and he posted a 1.79 ERA and a sparkling 0.868 WHIP in 26 appearances for Class A Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville.
He won a nonroster spot in big league camp this spring and didn’t allow an earned run in any of his seven Spring Training appearances, striking out 10 batters with no walks. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning against the Tigers on Friday night for his second save, and after the game-ending strikeout he jumped off the mound, pumped his fist and ran to catcher George Kottaras for a high-five and an embrace.
“I was definitely fired up,” Braddock said. “This has just been a great opportunity and a great experience so far. I wanted to make the most of it and I’m excited to take the tools I’ve learned from some of the older guys down [to Nashville]. …
“With having some success right now, I don’t want to get too high on it. It’s experience at this level, more than anything. It’s Spring Training. I really haven’t done anything. But it’s nice to have the experience and to do as much as I can while I’m here.”
Braddock said he was looking forward to a set role this season.
“The structure is going to allow me to build on the things I’ve already started,” Braddock said. “If [the bullpen] is where the Brewers want me and need me, then I’m going to do my best to build my structure around that. I’m still learning.”
He will be part of what projects as an excellent bullpen in Nashville. Chris Smith will handle most of the closer’s duties, but Braddock could work the ninth from time to time and so could right-hander John Axford. Other Sounds relief options include former big leaguers Tim Dillard and A.J. Murray.
Ash said that the organization was trying to veer from a one-inning mindset in the Minors, so Axford, Braddock, Smith and the other Nashville relievers could see opportunities for multi-inning saves.
A couple of additional Minor League notes:
— Left-hander Chase Wright is expected to begin the season as Nashville’s fifth starter behind Marco Estrada, Kameron Loe, Chuck Lofgren and Chris Waters. Lofgren, Waters and Wright are all left-handed, meaning the top levels of the organization are stacked with southpaws. Right-hander Josh Butler should join this group relatively early in the season, once he recovers from an elbow injury.
— The Double-A rotation will feature right-handers Amaury Rivas, Alex Periard, Mark Rogers, Michael Bowman and left-hander Chris Cody. Former first-round Draft pick Jeremy Jeffress should join once he finishes serving a 100-game suspension, and fellow righty Evan Anundsen was also targeted for Huntsville before he “tweaked” his shoulder on Friday, Ash said. Anundsen will begin the season on the disabled list.
Huntsville’s bullpen will include former first-round Draft pick Mike Jones.
“We didn’t have a starting spot for him so we’re going to send him to Huntsville to launch his relief career,” Ash said.
— The Class A Brevard County closer will be right-hander Nick Green, a changeup specialist whose 2009 season was marred by a neck injury.
“It’s an idea,” Ash said. “In our minds he has one supreme pitch, and his fastball is also good enough. You want to win games, of course, but the Minor Leagues should be a place to work on things like this.”