Brewers RHP Brandon Kintzler has had quite a complicated career for someone who is only 26 years old. He joined the Brewers organization in 2009 after his contract was purchased from the American Association St. Paul Saints. Prior his time with the Saints, he missed the entire 2006 season following arm surgery, spent time with Winnepeg of the independent league and with the Padres organization. This year, after pitching in Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville, Kintzler was called up to the Big Leagues and made his Major League debut in September.
“This year has been a dream,” Kintzler said. “I set goals for myself and after I had surgery in 2006, I set a goal to be in the Fall League in 2007. I know it’s three years later that I am here, but it really has been a great year for me professionally. The fact that I was in the Big Leagues this year and I’m on the 40-man is great. I’m in a good position for next year and being here in the Fall League is really helping continue to develop.”
Kintzler has made seven relief appearances this fall and has a 1-0 record with a 3.60 ERA (10ip/4er), he has struck out nine and walked only two.
“It took me a little bit to get settled, but once I became settled in, I was able to get on a nice roll and everything is going well right now. (Brewers pitching coach) Rick Peterson has had me work on hand movement and took my windup away. My velocity went back up from when I was in Milwaukee which is good to see as well.”
Shortening the delivery of Kintzler and allowing him to hold runners on base was one thing the Brewers staff wanted to work on. He has a different delivery and, according to the Las Vegas native, it has helped him out.
Surprise manager Mike Guerrero said he has been pleased with what he has seen with Kintzler so far this fall.
“He has really shown improvement all season long,” said Guerrero. “Seeing his development from last Spring Training here in Arizona to know is great. He was really pitching well with us in Huntsville early in the season; he continued to improve and was ultimately rewarded with a call up to the Brewers. He throws had and with control and there is always a need for that on the Big League level. His work ethic is something that will always keep him in conversations.”
Kintzler specifically pointed to the pregame workout routine that Trevor Hoffman organized with the Brewers bullpen on a daily basis for the last two seasons as something that is helping him physically.
“The Milwaukee guys stick together when working out (here in Arizona),” Kintzler said. “We have really stuck with Trevor’s routine of running and working out on a daily basis. He really had a big impact on all of us and we really learned a lot from him.”
A routine is something that Kintzler is excited about getting into once the Fall League season is complete. After starting the season in Huntsville, then going to Nasvhille, finishing in Milwaukee and then continuing here in Arizona, Kintzler has had a whirlwind 2010.
“It’s been a grind lately,” Kintzler said. “After this, I want to get in a routine of working out but at the same time, getting a little rest. February will be here fast and I want to be as strong as possible for Spring Training to compete for a job.”
Overall the experience and work Kintzler is getting here is something he is making the most out of and truly enjoying.
“It’s a really fun team, we have a good group. “It’s kind of funny that I’m the oldest guy on the team at only 26, but everyone meshes really well. It was quiet the first day, but everyone really gets along now. We are winning and Mike (Guerrero) really keeps it loose.”
TODAY’S GAME: Surprise is home against Scottsdale today with a 2:35 p.m. (Milwaukee time) first pitch. There are four Brewers in today’s Rafters starting lineup: Logan Schafer leading off and playing centerfield, Eric Farris batting second and playing second base, Caleb Gindl batting third and playing right field and Hunter Morris batting sixth and playing third base. Also playing in today’s game for Scottsdale is Washington Nationals top prospect and the 2010 First overall draft selection, Bryce Harper. Harper is a member of the Scorpions “taxi” squad and since today is a Wednesday, he is eligible to play in today’s game.
For some reason, I found it funny that the first game I saw here in Arizona finished in a tie. I know it is all about seeing players get work and the prospects working on mechanics, but ties are for soccer (and no, I’m not trying to offend any soccer fans out there, I do enjoy soccer)!
Arizona Fall League rules state that if the teams are tied after 11 innings of play, the game will go down in the books as “suspended.” The game will not be made up, but all of the stats will count. Today’s game between Surprise and Phoenix ended in a 2-2 tie. Brewers pitcher Jeremy Jeffress, who earlier in the day was named to the Rising Stars game, pitched two scoreless innings and got out of two jams to keep the game tied.
Jeffress saw his ERA dip to 0.96 today as he struck out two. In the tenth and eleventh innings, he had runners in scoring position with only one out and was able to end both innings without allowing a run to score.
“The Fall League is great,” Jeffress said after the game. “It’s really a great experience for all of the players. You get to battle down here; today’s game was really a battle there at the end. I was happy to pitch in a tough situation like that. It’s those kinds of situations that will really make me a better pitcher. I really love it here.”
Jeffress talked about the importance of his time here in Arizona.
“It’s been going good (in Arizona),” Jeffress said. “I’m just here to get some innings in and work on some pitches and different pitches in different situations. I’m really trying to get my changeup back to where it can be effective, I’m not really sure where I will be next year, but I want to have that just to be sure. It’s a good pitch to have and will help me out.”
Although he has only pitched 9.1 innings in the Arizona Fall League, Jeffress has pitched for Class-A Wisconsin, Class-A Brevard County, Double-A Huntsville and the Brewers, making for a long season–especially after missing most of the 2009 season.
“I’m a little fatigued, but it is good to work through all of this,” Jeffress said. “I went straight from Milwaukee to here, but it has been good. It was good to just stay in the flow of things. I need this work to help me develop into what I want to become as a player.”
JAMES WAIVER CLAIM: Brewers Vice President–Assistant General Manager Gord Ash called me this afternoon to alert me to a Brewers waiver claim, RHP Justin James from Oakland. I looked him up and learned that he was playing in the Fall League this year representing the A’s, ironically, he was at today’s Surprise-Phoenix game as a member of the Desert Dogs. I caught up with him after the game to hear his thoughts on becoming the newest Milwaukee Brewer.
“I found out about the claim just before today’s game,” James said. “When I found out, you know you don’t have control over that stuff, you just want to compete. Being here in the Fall League really opens up a lot of other doors for you as a player and for many people to see you. There are a large number of scouts at every game watching everyone.”
James has bounced around throughout his career between the Reds, Blue Jays and A’s organizations as well as a stint in 2009 in the Independent Northern League with Kansas City. He made his Major League debut this season with the A’s.
“If I’m not pitching for Oakland or another organization, I might as well be pitching for the Brewers. I really am looking forward to being with Milwaukee and I think I can help the organization win. I want to finish up strong here in Arizona with the Fall League, do what I did last year and come back ready to go in Spring Training.”
In the Fall League this season, James has made six relief appearances of one inning each and has a 4.50 ERA.
“It’s been going well here in Arizona,” James said. “Numbers-wise it might not be the best, but I’m learning a lot and competing. I’m throwing my change up a little bit more because that needs to be a little more polished. I’m just trying to throw strikes more consistently.”
James will remain a member of the Phoenix Desert Dogs for the final two weeks of the Arizona Fall League but will don a Brewers uniform the rest of the way.
TUESDAY WRAP UP
Score: Rafters 2, Desert Dogs 2
Weather: Sunny, 86 degrees
Tomorrow: Scottsdale at Surprise, 2:35 p.m. CT
Brewers In the Box Score: RHP Mike McClendon pitched 2.0 innings and allowed one unearned run on two hits, he also had one walk…..RHP Jeremy Jeffress pitched 2.0 scoreless innings and allowed one walk and struck out two…..OF Caleb Gindl entered the game in the 12th inning in left field, but did not have an at bat.
On the Other Team: Desert Dogs CF Trayvon Robinson had a beautiful diving catch in the sixth inning….Robinson is a prospect in the Dodgers organization.
Arizona Fall League Brewers History Note: Brewers C Jonathan Lucroy had a key hit in the bottom of the eighth inning that helped his team, the Peoria Javelinas, win the 2009 Arizona Fall League Championship.
Fall Fodder: There were no Brewers in today’s starting lineups for the Rafters…..INF Eric Farris entered today ranked third in the league in batting as he is hitting at a .413 clip (19-for-46).
PHOTOS FROM TODAY
Mike McClendon (top) and Jeremy Jeffress (bottom) pitch in today’s game for Surprise.
I made it here safe and sound (thanks to Frontier Airlines for what was probably the fastest flight ever between Milwaukee and Phoenix) after an early morning flight and headed straight to Phoenix Municipal Stadium for today’s game between the Surprise Rafters and Phoenix Desert Dogs.
The big news today from Arizona Fall League was the announcement of the teams for Saturday’s “Rising Stars” game. Named to the team were Brewers RHP Jeremy Jeffress and OF Caleb Gindl. Jeffress currently owns a 1.23 ERA (7.1ip/1er) in six relief appearances this fall.
“For Jeffress, we all know his repertoire,” said Mike Guerrero, manager of the Surprise Rafters and the Brewers Double-A affiliate Huntsville Stars. “He has a Major League fastball and a Major League breaking ball and he has been working on his changeup which has a lot of promise.”
He is holding hitters to a .179 batting average (5-for-28) this fall.
“He is working with a good tempo throughout the fall,” Guerrero added. “He needs to keep learning and specifically keep learning how the hitters play at this level. He has the ability to do that and he has shown so far that he can do that.”
“Gindl is a quality guy, a guy who will give you great at bats,” said Guerrero. “He can really swing the bat and be productive. He has shown he is a good doubles hitter. He is a plus defender with a plus arm.
Both he and Jeffress have really stepped it up a notch during the fall and are deserving of their All-Star nomination. I’m very happy for them, but for the most part, any one of the players representing the Brewers could have been selected. They have shown strong numbers, but at the same time have showed us that they are ready to compete at a high level every day.”
Saturday’s Rising Stars game will be broadcast live on MLBTV at 8 p.m. Milwaukee time. Former Brewers television play-by-play announcer Daron Suton will call the action.
Today’s game is just underway under clear skies in Phoenix. The atmosphere is unique, relaxed like a Spring Training game, but without the same buzz. Behind home plate sit around 25 scouts (more than I have ever seen for any Spring Training or Regular Season game). There are around 200 fans here, more than I expected, but obviously not as many as a Spring Training game. It is a cozy group, but a group that you can tell is interested in seeing the future stars of Major League Baseball. You can follow today’s game via Gameday at www.mlbfallball.com.
I will have a wrap up of the day later this afternoon.
While the World Series is just wrapping up and the spotlight shining on San Francisco and Texas, a group of around 180 Major League prospects from every team is in Phoenix participating in the Arizona Fall League. Their dreams of playing on the World Series stage are bright as they prepare to take the next step in their professional careers.
The Arizona Fall League is in its 19th year and has been referred to as a “graduate school” of sorts for elite prospects. There are six teams in the league that are made up of prospects from all 30 Major League teams. Players in the league have an opportunity to showcase their talents to an array of Major League scouts, farm directors and general managers.
While it is mostly a league for top prospects, a number of players do have Major League experience. Three Brewers representatives–Jeremy Jeffress, Brandon Kintzler and Mike McClendon–made their Major League debuts in 2010 and are among 22 this year’s Fall League players with Major League experience.
Ten Brewers prospects are currently participating in the league that began play on October 12 and will play a 32-game schedule. Along with prospects from the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals, the Brewers prospects make the Surprise Rafters. The Rafters play in the West Division with their home stadium of Surprise Stadium. Entering today’s games, the Rafters are in first-place with a 10-6 record.
Mike Guerrero, manager of the Huntsville Stars, is the manager of the Surprise Rafters for 2010. Guerrero has been in the Brewers organization as a coach or manager for 15 years. Representing the Brewers on the Surprise Rafters are the following players: RHP Michael Fiers; RHP Jeremy Jeffress; RHP Brandon Kintzler; LHP Lucas Luetge; RHP Mike McClendon; LHP Dan Merklinger; INF Eric Farris; INF Hunter Morris; OF Caleb Gindl and OF Logan Schafer. I have brief capsules on each player below along with links to their AFL bio page.
I’m heading down to Phoenix tomorrow (7 a.m. flight, ouch) to check in with some of the Brewers players who are playing in the league as well as find some stories about how the Brewers Training Center at Maryvale Baseball Park operates in the offseason. I am also going to see how Brewers scouts use the league to evaluate talent. I plan on completing my week by covering the Rising Stars Game on Saturday which is an All-Star Game for the AFL.
All told, over 1,800 former Fall Leaguers have reached the Big Leagues. On Opening Day 2010, the Milwaukee Brewers 25-man roster had 18 players who were Fall League graduates, tied with Philadelphia for the most in the National League and second only to Oakland (21) in MLB. Included in those 18 are All-Stars Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Corey Hart.
Additionally, four Brewers players who spent time on the Major League roster in 2010 played in the 2009 Fall League: Zack Braddock, Lorenzo Cain, Jonathan Lucroy and Mark Rogers. This shows how close those in the AFL are to making it to the Major Leagues.
I briefly spoke with Lucroy about his experience in the 2009 Fall League.
“I really believe that my experience last year in Arizona helped me get to the Big Leagues this year,” Lucroy said. “You were playing every day with some of the best prospects and getting good at bats against great pitching, facing that competition for over a month, you are definitely going to get better. Not only did it help me as a hitter, but I felt that it helped me as a catcher too because I was working with our pitchers and our coaches.”
Be sure to check in with John and Cait…Plus Nine all week for interviews, photos, stories and videos from Phoenix. If anyone has any ideas for me or questions for any of the players involved or Doug Melvin, please e-mail us and I will see what we can do to get them answered. I’m really excited to travel to Phoenix and write about what is going on with the future of the Milwaukee Brewers.
For more information on the Arizona Fall League, visit the official website for the league at www.mlbfallball.com.
Farris spent most of the 2010 season with Triple-A Nashvile where he finished the season hitting .274 with two home runs and 15 RBI. He was a 4th round selection (131st overall) of the Brewers in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. The infielder missed nearly three months of action after suffering a knee injury on April 29 in a home plate collision. He hit .250 (8-for-32) with 5 doubles, 1 home run, 9 RBI in 10 rehab games with the Arizona Brewers.
Fiers began the season with Brevard County and was promoted to Huntsville on July 4. Overall this season, he went 5-9 with a 3.53 ERA (125ip/49er) in 27 appearances/19 starts. His strikeout to walk ratio was astounding as he has recorded 130 strikeouts and only 32 walks. The right handed pitcher was the Brewers 22nd round selection of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
Gindl was a fifth-round selection by the Brewers in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft and spent the 2010 season with Double-A Huntsville where he hit .272 with nine home runs and 60 RBI while playing in 128 games in the outfield.
The Brewers’ First-Round Draft selection in 2006, Jeffress made his Major League debut with the Brewers this season. He spent time with Class-A Wisconsin (0-0, 0.00), Class-A Brevard County (0-0, 5.40) and Double-A Huntsville (1-1, 1.26) before joining the Brewers (1-0, 2.70) as a September call up.
Kintzler, a hard-throwing right hander also made his Major League debut in 2010 with the Brewers. He began the season with Double-A Huntsville (1-0, 0.40, 10 saves) and moved on to Triple-A Nashville where he made 22 appearances out of the bullpen (3-0, 2.36 ERA, 6 saves). With the Brewers, he went 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in seven relief appearances.
Luetge was a 21st round selection by the Brewers in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. He split time between Class-A Brevard County (1-1, 2.29) and Double-A Huntsville (3-2, 3.48). Luetge is a member of the Rafters “taxi squad” meaning he is only active for Wednesday and Saturday games during the Fall League but still participates in all other team activities.
McClendon made his Major League debut with the Brewers in August and went 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 17 relief appearances. A 10th round selection by the Brewers in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, McClendon began the season with Double-A Huntsville (1-1, 0.61) and spent most of the season with Triple-A Nashville where he went 4-3 with a 2.44 ERA in 25 appearances and three starts.
Merklinger, like Luetge, is a member of the Rafters “taxi squad.” He spend most of the 2010 season with Class-A Brevard County, going 7-6 with a 3.64 ERA in 25 appearances and 21 starts. He also made one start at each Triple-A Nashville and Double-A Huntsville. Merklinger was a 6th round selection by the Brewers in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
Morris was a 2010 fourth round pick by the Brewers and was this year’s Southeastern Conference Player of the Year out of Auburn University. He spent the 2010 season with Class-A Wisconsin and hit .251 with nine home runs and 44 RBI.
Schafer spent an injury-plagued season with Class-A Brevard County. He only played seven games this season for Brevard County where he hit .174 (4-for-23) and missed most of the season due to a broken right foot and a sports hernia. He finished the season on the disabled list after being placed on the DL on July 9. He was a 3rd round selection by the Brewers in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.