04/24/2004 2:47 PM ET
Notes: Saenz not a surprise
J.J. Hardy adjusts to Triple-A; Mike Jones healthy
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- During the winter of 2002-03, Brewers minor leaguer Mike Jones opened his North Phoenix home to fellow farmhands Brad Nelson, J.J. Hardy, Manny Parra and Chris Saenz.
|Chris Saenz's success isn't a surprise to those who know him well. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Nelson, at the time, was rated the Brewers' top prospect. Jones was a No. 1 draft pick in 2001 and Hardy went in the second round that year. Parra was rated the nation's top junior college pitcher when he signed a year later as a draft-and-follow player.
"He was the sleeper of that house," Hardy said.
The sleeper woke up Saturday morning and became the first roommate to crack the Major Leagues. Saenz, selected way down in the 28th round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft -- below Jones, Hardy and Parra -- was called up from Double-A Huntsville on Friday and made his Major League debut against the Cardinals on Saturday.
"It's awesome," said Hardy, who has known Saenz since they were 12-year-old Little League teammates in Tucson, Ariz.. "All of us in that house knew how good Saenz was. He was just getting better and better every year."
Saenz posted a 4.24 ERA in 2001 at Rookie-level Ogden and went 3-5 with a 3.51 ERA in 2002 at Single-A Beloit. He was converted back to a starter in 2003 and struck out 136 batters in 128 innings at Advanced Single-A High Desert, posting a 9-9 record and a 5.20 ERA in the hitter-friendly California League.
He joined Hardy and Nelson at Double-A Huntsville for one start at the end of the season and allowed one earned run in six innings of a no-decision. After the season, the Brewers placed him on the 40-man roster to protect him in the Rule 5 Draft and invited Saenz to Spring Training.
Seanz was sent down in the first round of cuts, but he made an impression on Brewers manager Ned Yost.
"We started him in a Spring Training game in Tucson against Colorado and he pitched three innings," Yost said. "He pitched great. You would think the first time a 22-year-old pitches in his hometown in a big league Spring Training game he would be a little nervous or erratic. He wasn't."
He was 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA and struck out eight in each of his two starts this season at Huntsville. Seanz throws a fastball in the low 90s, a good slider and a changeup.
"He definitely has poise," Hardy said. "His shyness doesn't show when he's on the baseball field. He could be a really good power pitcher. I never knew he had that good a changeup until this year in Spring Training."
Saenz is also pretty good at Halo, a capture the flag-style video game.
"He wants to play more than anyone," Hardy said. "Every time he would come over to my house this spring that's all he wanted to do. He got better and better at that, too. I guess it's just like he did in baseball."
Adjustment time: Triple-A Indianapolis had the International League's third-best offense going into the weekend, but Hardy has not quite joined the hit parade.
In his first 52 at-bats at the Triple-A level, Hardy had a team-best 11 RBIs but sported a .212 batting average.
"I was hitting in the No. 8 hole at the beginning and I was 0-for-however many times I hit there," said Hardy, who was in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday preparing for a game against the Yankees affiliate. "Then I was moved up to the two-hole and that was much better."
How big of an adjustment is there from Double-A, where Hardy batted .279 last season with a career-high 12 home runs and 62 RBIs?
"It's a big jump up when it comes to ballparks, fans and defense," Hardy said. "And the pitchers are different because you've got a lot of soft throwers who like to hit their spots. In Double-A, you've got a lot more guys who are just hard throwers. It's taking a little time to adjust."
Back on track: Jones, the sixth-best prospect in the Brewers' farm system according to Baseball America, finished last season on the disabled list with an elbow injury but appears back on track at Huntsville. He struck out eight and allowed a run on four hits in five innings of Friday's 5-0 loss to West Tenn.
Jones was particularly pleased with his curveball.
"Absolutely," Jones told the Huntsville Times. "I would not have my curveball if I wasn't 100 percent healthy."
The Huntsville offense, led by Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks, has been struggling. It was the fourth time the Stars had been shut out in their last 10 games.
Good story gets better: The Brewers are experimenting with minor league right-hander Tim Bausher as a starter.
Bausher, a hard thrower whose professional career began in the Independent Leagues, had a 3.33 ERA and three saves in 19 relief appearances at Beloit last season. He had been alternating starts with Dennis Sarfate at Huntsville this year until Saenz's departure created an opening. Bausher was slated to make his second start of the season against West Tenn on Saturday.
In one start and one relief appearance, Bausher was 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA and nine strikeouts in seven innings of work. To make the conversion to starting, he will have to work on honing a changeup to go with his plus fastball and good curve.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.