Last year, as we trudged our way through a woefully cold and snowy winter in Wisconsin, I profiled today’s Brewers player on February 5. This year, with Mother Nature taking it easier on us in the Dairy State, I again profile this man as we sit 54 days away from Opening Day. Only now, it’s February 11. That’s because the season gets as late a start as you could hope for by not coming around until April 6.
But I digress. Let’s move forward and not consider how Major League Baseball added six days to our winter this year as we take a look back at the 2014 campaign of…
Michael Robert Blazek had his first profile in my annual countdown series last year, so if you need a refresher on how he was acquired by the Brewers and the Cliff’s Notes version of his pro career up to that point, check it out here.
As for 2014, Blazek would spend all of the season pitching with the Class-AAA affiliate of the Brewers. The 6’0″ right-hander, who turns 26 in March, appeared in 37 games for Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League last year. He would pitch to a 4.15 ERA across 102.0 innings pitched, his highest innings total since he was a full-time starter in the Cardinals system back in 2011. Blazek worked out of the bullpen to begin the year, but as injuries and call-ups dotted the Nashville transaction log, he eventually answered the bell of starting. He would make 17 starts, winning four and losing just one.
Blazek had mixed results in 2014. He had 17 appearances in which he allowed runs, but allowed just one run in only four of them. To put it another way, Blazek either pitched very well or quite roughly. Blazek gave up at least three runs on eight separate occasions, including four outings of at least four runs allowed.
If you read last year’s article or any scouting reports on Blazek, you know that control and command have been the problems that keep him from blowing away big league hitters. Some evidence: In the eight games allowing three runs or more, only once did Blazek get roughed up without issuing a walk. Most of those games had at least two walks allowed. His worst outing of the season — a four inning, seven earned run start on August 19 — saw Blazek walk four Albuquerque Isotopes.
I caught up with Blazek at the annual Brewers On Deck fan fest in Milwaukee (held this year on Sunday, January 25) and asked him about his control and what he was doing to improve. His answer is near the end of this audio. It’s not long.
For 2015, Blazek needs to hope that his hard work during the off-season pays dividends. He’ll almost assuredly begin the season at Triple-A with the new affiliate in Colorado Springs. And although Blazek only allowed nine home runs in his 102.0 innings last year, walks ahead of doubles can be similarly brutal if the merry-go-round gets a-spinnin’.
I also asked Blazek about his preparation from a length perspective. As you no doubt took to time to hear in the audio clip, he said that he prepares as a starter every off-season so he’ll have that endurance and arm strength should he be asked to start.
The herd is a little thin at Triple-A for starters following the off-season trades of first Marco Estrada and then Yovani Gallardo which guaranteed jobs in the big league rotation to Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson, both of whom opened 2014 in Nashville’s rotation. Taylor Jungmann is the presumed #1 for the Sky Sox, and former big leaguer Hiram Burgos has been resigned after some injuries (though there’s no guarantee he’ll begin in Triple-A). Tyler Cravy reached Triple-A at the end of 2014 and could start there in 2015. You’d assume Ariel Peña could be there as well. Johnny Hellweg will rejoin the rotation this summer once he’s cleared to following his long Tommy John rehab. The well-regarded Taylor Williams and Hobbs Johnson, non-roster invitees to big league camp this year, haven’t yet pitched above High-A.
We’ll see which role Blazek ends up with to kick off 2015, but he’ll be doing so in Colorado Springs. Whether he spends all year there is as much up to him as anyone or anything else.
You can follow Michael Blazek on Twitter: @MichaelBlazek34
Catch up on the countdown!
- #58 – Wei-Chung Wang
- #60 – Matt Clark
- #62 – Luis Sardiñas
- #63 – Brooks Hall
- #64 – Shane Peterson
- #65 – Yadiel Rivera
- #66 – Juan Centeno
- #67 – Nevin Ashley
- #68 – Ariel Peña
- #70-#75 – Matt Long, Adam Weisenburger, Cameron Garfield, Taylor Williams, Hobbs Johnson, Tyler Cravy
- #76 – Mike Strong
- #77 – David Goforth
- #78 – Taylor Jungmann