Brewers lack southpaws at upper levels

By Jason Arndtbrewers
Brewers Farm Report

Milwaukee knew it had a barren cupboard of left-handed pitchers within the minor league ranks entering the 2013 season and it was apparent the team needed to further address the need during the off season.

With the Brewers acquisition of Will Smith from Kansas City for outfielder Norichika Aoki along with retention of left-handed spot starter Tom Gorzelanny, Milwaukee had just four southpaws above High A within the organization.

Smith, 24, was reportedly on the Brewers’ radar for some time and with the Mike Gonzalez experiment during the 2013 season in Milwaukee – it expedited the process.

Gonzalez, 35, pitched poorly for Milwaukee allowing ten home runs and 26 earned runs through 50 innings for the Brewers in 2013.

Gorzelanny, 31, pitched respectable as a reliever for the Brewers but faltered as a spot starter for a team hindered by a myriad of injuries on the starting rotation.

Prior to Gorzelanny’s nine starts to end the season, he obtained a 2.43 ERA after allowing 11 earned runs and 25 hits through 40.1 innings until July 4.

It was not the same story when he was summoned to the starting rotation where he went 2-5 with a 5.04 ERA until he was sidelined for the remainder of the season due to an injury.

With the starting rotation set at the parent level, Gorzelanny should return to the bullpen for the 2014 season.

Preliminary Assessment

Aside from Smith and Gorzelanny, the only other left-handed pitcher above Brevard County was Brent Leach of Nashville.

Leach, 31, signed as minor-league free agent in July and pitched in just 27.2 innings for the Sounds but struck out 33 and walked 12 batters.

However, Leach received limited work prior to his Brewers’ arrival after releases by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves along with an argument with his Nippon Professional Baseball contract in 2011.

Milwaukee made the rare decision to draft Wei-Chung Wang from the Rookie Gulf Coast League with a Rule V draft selection in December and will need to keep the 21-year-old on the Major League roster for the duration of the 2014.

However, as the off season progresses Wang might be returned to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization according to the latest reports.

Pitcher Jeff Bennett was the last player Milwaukee kept on its roster following the Rule V draft in 2004.

Bennett spent two combined seasons with the organization including his 2005 Nashville Sounds campaign but signed as a free agent with Atlanta in 2006.

In response to the shortage, Milwaukee signed 28-year-old Brad Mills January 9 to shore up the bullpen in Nashville.

Mills was released by the Texas Rangers organization in July 2013 and led him to sign with the Orix Buffaloes of the Nippon Professional Baseball League.

In 17 starts for Triple A Round Rock, Mills posted a 7-5 record with an ERA of 3.87 and struck out 73 batters while walking 29 batters through 97.2 innings.

Texas released Mills after he struggled his final four appearances allowing 16 earned runs and 26 hits through 19 innings.

However, Mills began the season with three straight wins allowing three earned runs through 19 innings for the Express.

Additionally, he suffered a tough loss against Albuquerque where he pitched seven strong innings allowing two earned runs June 11.

Furthermore, Double A Huntsville will not see its first left-handers on the roster when Brent Suter and Stephen Peterson make their arrivals from Brevard County in 2014.

Jed Bradley’s assignment for 2014 remains in question after suffering a season-ending injury.

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