New addition to the bullpen Burke Badenhop will be a positive influence in the Brewers clubhouse.
By ANDREW GRUMANFS Wisconsin
MILWAUKEE — Burke Badenhop has one lasting memory of the
Milwaukee Brewers and their fans.
Sitting in the visitor's bullpen at Miller Park in late September of 2011, Badenhop had a great view as the Brewers clinched the National League Central Division title against his Florida Marlins.
When he got word he was traded to Milwaukee in December, Badenhop's mind raced back to how raucous the domed stadium got when Ryan Braun gave the Brewers the lead in the eighth inning and how fans stuck around long after the game to celebrate with the team.
His memories of Milwaukee told him he was coming to a place where he wanted to be.
"That's what the (fans) expect, the (players) know how to win," Badenhop said. "There's guys that have been here and been to the playoffs. That's unbelievably important because that's what you want to do and why you play. It's not just 162 games, it's more than that."
Acquired from Tampa Bay for a low-level minor leaguer, Badenhop is part of the complete overhaul of Milwaukee's bullpen from a year ago.
He'll draw comparisons to former Brewers reliever Kameron Loe, simply because both are sinkerball pitchers whose job is to come in and get a groundball or a double play.
The sinker is Badenhop's primary pitch -- he threw it 74.4 percent of the time last season according to FanGraphs.com -- but it hasn't always been.
He didn't throw a sinker while pitching in college at Bowling Green and didn't develop the pitch until he was in Single A in the Marlins organization.
He didn't become a sinkerball reliever until much later on. Badenhop was a starter all throughout the minor leagues and came up as a starter with the Marlins in 2008. After struggling in that role, Badenhop became a long reliever and found success, posting a 3.75 ERA in 2009.
Badenhop threw his sinker just 1.3 percent of the time during his first two years in the big leagues, but that jumped to 60.5 percent in 2010 and became his primary pitch.
"You just figure out what works better for you," Badenhop said. "I've been anywhere from a long guy to a real short right-on-right guy for Joe Maddon.
"I think the realm of being a relief pitcher fits anywhere in between the long and the short and I just hope that when I'm called on I can give consistent innings and let (Brewers manager) Ron (Roenicke) know what he's going to get when I go out there on the field."
Of the new additions to the bullpen, Badenhop's role is the least defined, but he's alright with that. Mike Gonzalez will likely be a late-innings against left-handed hitters guy, while Tom Gorezlanny will be more of a long to middle reliever. Badenhop just hopes to fit somewhere in between.
"I think they've done a great job (of rebuilding the bullpen)," Badenhop said. "All they can do is get the pieces and then from Game 1 to Game 162, where those pieces fit and how things how shake out (is up to us).
"You find pieces and how those pieces fit together is what we want. We want to be reliable out there so when Ron picks up that phone he is not pressed to who he is going to get up.
All three new relievers are coming off a winning team. Gorzelanny and Gonzalez made the playoffs with the Nationals, while Badenhop got in with the Rays. Badenhop feels the experience of winning is something valuable to any team.
A funny and engaging person, Badenhop figures to be a positive influence in the Milwaukee clubhouse and with the media. Although he'll make a good interview, he understands that the Brewers bullpen could use a year with less attention.
"Usually if I'm on TV after the game it's probably not a good thing," Badenhop said. "I learned that early in my career. We'll be as anonymous as we need to be. It's a thankless job but at the same point you need a solid bullpen.
"There's very little (positive things for relievers to talk about), unless you get a hit that night. There's very little you can do that's going to bring attention. We'll let John (Axford) be the attention guy because he's closing things down."