Brewers’ Player to Watch: Johnny Hellweg
By Benjamin Orr
As the old saying goes in baseball, a team can never have enough pitching. The Milwaukee Brewers are no strangers when it comes to pitching depth, especially when you take a look at last season and the beating the staff took not only through struggles, but injuries. Johnny Hellweg, one of the two pitchers brought over in last season’s Zack Greinke trade, is making a strong push to be on the 25-man roster. In Spring Training so far, Hellweg has pitched in two games, but hasn’t allowed a runner to score. Hellweg has also struck out three while walking three in four innings of work.
Does the 24 year-old stand a chance against the Brewers’ current pitching staff?
Johnny Hellweg looks to put fear into the opposing batters…literally! Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been noted for Hellweg that while he pitches in the minors, he’ll continue to see more of a role as a starting pitcher. Once Hellweg hits the majors though, the Brewers could plan to use him as relief and possibly transition him into a spot starter if needed. The biggest thing Hellweg has going for him right now is his command as noted by manager Ron Roenicke:
"“I see pretty good command,” Roenicke said. “He’s got a pretty compact and simple delivery and I think that allows his big frame [to repeat pitches], although he’s a pretty good athlete.” –via the Brewers’ website"
For Hellweg, his test will more than likely come in 2013. In 2012, he had a deceiving 7-11 record in Double-A with a 3.29 ERA in 23 games started. More intricately, Hellweg pitched in 139.2 innings, which is the most so far for him in his young career. He’s definitely working his way towards Triple-A and if he sees any action in the league this season, he may see a call-up sooner than later.
If we take the case of Tyler Thornburg for example, he’s a pitcher that despite starting in only eight Triple-A games, found himself up in the majors in 2012. Now Thornburg you could say is a victim of circumstance given the time he came up with Shaun Marcum getting injured. Thornburg hadn’t seen a whole lot of time in the minors, only three seasons, so perhaps Hellweg’s time is coming soon if we look at Thornburg’s example.
Milwaukee doesn’t have a rotation per say that is set in stone for the upcoming years. Besides the obvious Yovani Gallardo, this is a rotation highly shrouded in mystery and one can only wonder if Hellweg is going to be a part of that. Hellweg has said himself he wants to start when he gets to the majors, so really, it couldn’t hurt to try it out. If we see Hellweg in 2013 at all, it will more than likely be for relief rather than starting unless there’s an absolute emergency and or melt down.
It’s hard to say that we’ll see Hellweg for sure in 2013, but if the 6’9″ righty continues to have a strong Spring Training, he’ll definitely be doing himself some favors.