Brewers' Johnny Hellweg takes demotion in stride
JUL 10, 2013 5:34p ET
After taking the loss in Wednesday afternoon's 6-2 defeat, Hellweg was optioned to Single-A Wisconsin in order to keep pitching while the Brewers are on the All-Star break.
Hellweg is headed to Single-A in order to have him pitch on his fifth day. Both Triple-A Nashville and Double-A Huntsville are off Monday, and the Brewers want him to stay on regular rest.
When the break is over, the Brewers will determine if Hellweg is needed in the big leagues.
"We're going to see what happens the next four days and where our rotation is -- and really, what we feel is best for Johnny and his development; whether to go back to Nashville or come back to us," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
Making his third big league start and fourth appearance since coming up from Triple-A, Hellweg allowed four runs on four hits with five walks and just one strikeout in 4 1/3 innings. Opponents have scored in nine of the 12 innings Hellweg has started, and he leaves Milwaukee with an 0-3 record and a 10.97 ERA.
Cincinnati got on the board in the first inning Wednesday, as Hellweg allowed a leadoff double to Shin-Soo Choo and a two-out RBI single to Brandon Phillips.
Command issues hurt Hellweg in the second, as a hit by pitch and a walk followed a leadoff single by Jay Bruce to load the bases with nobody out. A sacrifice fly by Devin Mesoraco and a double play hit into by Reds starter Mike Leake limited the damage to just one run, but the Brewers trailed, 2-0.
Walks led to runs in the third and fifth innings, as Hellweg's day ended after 83 pitches with one out in the fifth.
"I think he's getting better," Roenicke said. "I loved the third inning he pitched. If he pitches like that, he's going to have a long career in the big leagues. He really pitched. He threw his breaking ball over, he threw changeups, he located his fastball. The other innings, he was fighting. He was behind in the count and fighting to survive to make a real good pitch to try to get out of it.
"He's got the stuff to do it -- he's still getting a lot of ground balls and that's a huge advantage when you're behind in the count to get a fastball over and still get a ground ball. There's improvement there from the other two starts but still some things he needs to work on. He can do that here, but if we think it's better for him to do that in Triple-A, we'll do that."
Though there weren't many bright spots in Hellweg's four appearances with the Brewers, he took the demotion in stride.
"I'm just trying to stay positive," Hellweg said. "I'm just going to try and go down there and get a good feeling back and try to get back up here and help as soon as I can.
"I feel like I have a lot more to show and show that I can contribute up here and help the team."
Sometimes struggles like what Hellweg experienced at the major league level can do psychological damage to a young player, but Roenicke feels this experience will help the 24-year-old.
"You learn a lot when you come here, you see what happens, you see how your stuff plays against the best hitters anywhere," Roenicke said. "(Cincinnati has) a good lineup. It's nice to see him pitch against those guys and how they react. When he makes good pitches, they don't hit it.
"Hopefully he sees that -- and I think he does -- and it gives him confidence in what he needs to do. If he is going back to Triple-A, it gives him something to work on. He knows what he needs to do to be able to pitch here and stay here for a long time."
Though dejected and obviously frustrated, Hellweg is still confident he can become a reliable starting pitcher in the big leagues. There were glimpses in each of the four outings, but he wasn't consistent enough to ever get on a roll.
Hellweg has 13 walks, one hit batter and just two strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings with the Brewers, as he fell behind in almost every count. The physical tools and actual stuff are there, now the mental side of things must come, and that needs time to develop.
"I know what I can do," Hellweg said. "I didn't show it the last couple times out, but I think it is going to put more of a drive or a fire in me to come back up to do it right next time."
The Brewers didn't announce a corresponding move, but a position player will likely be recalled from Triple-A to meet Milwaukee in Phoenix for its four-game series with the Diamondbacks. Scooter Gennett, Blake Lalli, Josh Prince, Khris Davis and Caleb Gindl are all on Milwaukee's 40-man roster and playing at Triple-A.
Roenicke has been forced to have a four-man bench due to the club carrying an extra pitcher to aid a taxed bullpen. Recalling a position player would even out the roster.
"We should be able to get by with our pitching staff," Roenicke said. "Hopefully that's the case in the four days but most likely it'll be a position player."
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