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Monday, March 21, 2011

Two Brewers Lefties Show Improvement Saturday

It's only Spring Training, but the early struggles of Randy Wolf and Zach Braddock surely worried some of the Brewers faithful. Wolf signed a three year, $30-million deal with the Brewers prior to the 2010 season. He underperformed during the first half, the low point coming against the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates in which he pitched 5.2 innings with 13 H, 2 BB, and 12 ER. He put together a strong second half (3.71 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) after working on his tempo with then pitching coach Rick Peterson, bringing hope to Brewerland that he may yet live up to his contract.

With regard to Braddock, his 2011 performance thus far led me to wonder if he might lose his spot to Mitch Stetter. Braddock burst onto the scene last year as part of a retooled bullpen after the original 'pen fell apart rather quickly. A reliable, late-inning left-handed specialist also able to pitch against right-handers, he finished the year with a 2.94 ERA, 19 BB, and 41 K in 33.2 innings. Both pitchers showed improvement Saturday vs the Dodgers.

Starting for the Brewers, Wolf commanded his pitches better than he had of late. He allowed two earned runs over 5.2 innings (5 H, 1 BB, 3 K). Of his outing he said, "Right now, the main thing is throwing strikes and mixing in my off-speed pitches and throwing them for strikes." He felt he succeeded in that effort. He also introduced a new grip for his cutter, learned that morning from pitching coach Rick Kranitz. "It felt really good," said Wolf. "It's a pitch I'm going to keep ... working on and making sure I'm totally comfortable with. My first feel of it today felt really good."

Braddock finished the sixth inning for Wolf and at first again looked shaky. He escaped the inning without allowing a run and returned for the seventh. He walked one and pitched a scoreless 1.1 innings, though he wasn't able to strike anyone out. His velocity remains worryingly low, but he showed improvement of his pitch command and he recorded outs without allowing runs.

Both appearances can be seen as victories for the two left-handers. If they can build on these successes they should be ready to pitch reliably for the Brewers come opening day.

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