The land of the minor leagues is often times a confusing and cloudy realm.
Sure-thing, can’t-miss prospects often flame out before they surpass A-level ball. Conversely, players chosen in the late rounds of the draft make it to the big leagues and blow away expectations. (Mike Piazza, anyone?)
Though while it’s not completely unheard of when a former 40th round draft choice reaches the majors, it’s not exactly a common occurance either.
If you’ll forgive the hyperbole, because I’m sure it’s hardly a 1::1, for every player that has failed to realize his potential, another has emerged out of minor-league obscurity.
That is exactly what happened for the man who wore #61 last season…
Brandon Lee Kintzler checks in on Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers at 5’10” tall, weighing 185 lbs. He was drafted out of Dixie State University in Utah in 2004 by the San Diego Padres. Kintzler will be 27 on Opening Day 2012 and has spent the entirety of his Major League career with the Brewers.
Those big league innings, all 22.0 of them, have come in 16 relief appearances over two season. Kintzler originally debuted on September 10, 2010 after being called up to Milwaukee three days prior. The results weren’t great (he allowed runs in three of his seven appearances in 2010, multiple runs twice) but he flashed enough stuff to remain in big league camp in 2011.
He headed north as the extra bullpen arm for the first week of the season when the team didn’t need to decide on a fifth starter right away. His stay would be brief.
He pitched in a game on April 3rd, allowing four runs (one earned), in 1.1 IP. Kintzler was later optioned to Nashville to make room on the 25-man roster for eventual fifth starter Marco Estrada.
His stay in Nashville would be short as well, however, as Kintzler was recalled to Milwaukee on April 12th after Takashi Saito suffered an injury. Kintzler would only allow five more runs all season, but not because of some pitching epiphany. While he did compile 13.1 innings through the 4th of May, Kintzler’s season would meet a premature end due to arm discomfort that was originally feared to be a UCL tear but in reality wound up being a stress fracture in the forearm of his pitching arm.
Kintzler has been throwing without pain this offseason and by all accounts has maintained the velocity that probably got him his opportunity in the first place.
He’ll have as much of an inside track as a relief pitcher can have when Pitchers and Catchers begin workouts in Maryvale on February 20th, but make no mistake; nothing is guaranteed in sports. Kintzler will have to prove that he deserves one of the open spots in Ron Roenicke’s bullpen. Kintzler will need to be ready to go right away.
Hopefully Kintzler can build on the numbers he was posting in 2011 before his injury. If he can, he’ll be a useful member of the relief corps for Milwaukee.
And that’s all you can truly ask out of any fireman is to be ready when the phone rings and not lose the game for your manager. Kintzler had a good start at that though didn’t amass much track record.
If he gets another chance to hurl in Miller Park, he’ll have earned it. Make no mistake about that either.