The Milwaukee Brewers entered play on Saturday, April 19th with the best record in Major League Baseball. There are some inconsistencies at times, but for the most part the team is playing well.
There have been a couple of roster moves, one based on injury and one based on paternity, but stability has also been a calling card so far during this young season.
It’d be easy to rest on those laurels, but the Brewers are continually looking for ways to get better — either on the 25-man roster or in the minors.
The Brewers recently signed back free agent RHP Jeremy Jeffress, who was their 1st round draft pick in 2006. Jeffress had some issues with drug suspensions (for marijuana) and if he’s caught one more time he receives a lifetime ban from MLB. That’s certainly a risk, however one that the Brewers have deemed worth taking as the 26-year-old still has a big fastball and late-inning relief potential. Jeffress would likely have been with the Brewers for his entire career if not for his being a part of the package sent to the Kansas City Royals in return for Zack Greinke prior to the 2011 season.
Jeffress was signed to a minor-league contract.
The Brewers also were confirmed to have attended the workout for free agent relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He could be ready to sign soon and if he regains the form he had in the years prior to injuring his UCL, he could be a major addition at the right time.
Hanrahan, 32, recorded 76 saves between 2011-2012 as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He could absolutely upgrade one of the bullpen spots were he to be added to the Brewers.
As always, breaking news hits Twitter first so follow me at @BrewerNation for the quickest announcements and then return to this space for expanded analysis and commentary.
We’re inside six weeks, faithful (or first-time) readers. If you look to the right-hand side of the page, and are reading this on the day it was first posted, you’ll also notice that we’re a week away from on-field action against another team.
It’s an exciting time of the year to be sure. One where, in a normal set of meteorological circumstances, we’d be talking more about the trading of the seasons from winter to spring.
Do you see what I did there?
One off-season removed from the trading which brought us Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, today “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” profiles the only trade acquisition this current off-season:
Acquired in exchange for 3B Casey McGehee back in December, Jose Enger Veras was recently described on Twitter by Brewers beat writer Adam McCalvy as “gigantic” when he reported to Maryvale for the start of Brewers Spring Training. In the tradition of reporting that a player has reported to camp in the “best shape of his life”, the term was met with some worry by those that read it. McCalvy clarified that he simply meant that Veras, who stands 6’6″ and is listed at 240 pounds, is every bit of human that his bio suggests.
Veras, 31, pitched exclusively out of the bullpen last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates (as he has throughout his professional career) where he posted a line of 2-4, 3.80 ERA, 71.0 IP, 54 H, 32 R (30 ER), 6 HR, 34 BB, 3 IBB, 79 K. He held opponents to a .206 batting average, and his WHIP totaled 1.24 for the year. He was 1-for-8 in Save opportunities for the Pirates, and hasn’t saved a game since 2007 when he was 2-f0r-2 for the New York Yankees. In other words, neither incumbent closer John Axford, nor incumbent setup man Francisco Rodriguez need worry about their jobs.
That isn’t to say that Veras doesn’t have late-inning value. He was the primary setup man for Pirate closer Joel Hanrahan and appeared in 79 games. His talents and level of ability definitely fit better in the 7th inning, which for the record is where the Pirates would’ve pitched Veras in 2011 had Evan Meek been healthy the entire season. The 7th inning just so happens to be a spot where the Brewers have an opening (actually, two) created by the free-agent departures of LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito.
It’s extremely early in the process to determine anything definitively, but if camp broke today and the Brewers faced the Cardinals tomorrow and the starter could only make it through six…it would be a safe bet that Jose Veras would get the ball first in a close game where the Brewers had the lead.
Veras features a big fastball (range: 92 MPH – 97 MPH with a 94.1 MPH average velocity), curve ball (range: 75 MPH – 82 MPH, average: 78.6 MPH), and split-fingered fastball (80-86 range, 83.8 average).
He is a strikeout pitcher, as evidenced by his 79 strikeouts in 71.0 innings last year and his career 249 strikeouts in 247.1 innings pitched. When batters put the ball in play against him, the ball tends to head skyward. His career ground-out-to-fly-out ratio is 0.81 and was actually 0.68 in 2011.
Bottom line: He’ll contribute positively much more often than not, but like any relief pitcher is prone to give up runs in bunches. In the 19 appearances in which Veras allowed runs to score on his record, he allowed multiple runs nine times. To put it another way, he seems to be a very on or very off pitcher (just based on hard numbers), so it will be part of manager Ron Roenicke’s job with the help of bullpen coach Stan Kyles, to make sure they can identify the days when they might be getting an off Veras.