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05/28/08 10:00 PM ET
Tavarez makes immediate impact
Day of signing leads to relief appearance and win for Brewers
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- It did not take long for the Brewers to find a spot for veteran reliever Julian Tavarez. He passed a physical and signed a contract with the team on Tuesday afternoon, then pitched a scoreless eighth inning with the Brewers trailing, 2-1, later that night. They rallied for a run in the bottom of that inning, then won it in the bottom of the ninth. "It was something I didn't expect, but they believed in me," Tavarez said after the dust had settled Wednesday. "They said, 'Do you feel like you can pitch right now, that you don't need any time?' I said, 'I don't think so. I feel like I can go out and pitch.' "I appreciate it [that] they took my word. That was the reason they put me in right away, because they trust my word." They also put him in because they needed a fresh arm. The Brewers are stretched at the moment with relievers Eric Gagne and David Riske on the disabled list, and manager Ned Yost had used at least three relievers in each of the last three games. "I was very short in the 'pen [on Tuesday]," Yost said. "You don't really want a guy making his debut with a new team coming in a one-run game, but he's a guy that's had tons of experience in the postseason. Stuff like that is not going to shake him, so I wasn't too worried about it." Before Tuesday night, Tavarez had pitched just twice since April 24 and not at all since May 11, the day before he was designated for assignment by the Red Sox. He later was released, and looked to move to a National League team with a chance to win the World Series. The Brewers obviously fit the first criterion. Tavarez apparently believes they fit the second one as well. "That's the only reason you play this game, why you go to Spring Training, right? To go to October," he said. "I got my World Series last year and now I feel spoiled. I want another one." The first Brewers official Tavarez heard from was bullpen coach Bill Castro, both of whom hail from Santiago in the Dominican Republic, and someone Tavarez has known since he was a young boy and Castro was a Brewers reliever. "That meant a lot to me, because they were the first National League team to show interest in me," said Tavarez. "With the double-switch and all that, it gives me more opportunities to pitch. In the American League, when you're a long man out there, you go 14, 13 days [between outings]. You can't blame the manager for that." Tavarez had success as Boston's fifth starter for the 2007 World Series champions, but made all nine of his 2008 appearances in relief, compiling a 6.39 ERA. He stayed sharp by working out in Boston with a group of former collegiate players who play pick-up games for fun. "My friend Sal, he's a cop, and he plays ball just for fun in Boston," Tavarez said. "So my friend Sal took me over there just to work out. I appreciate all those kids in Boston. ... They are the reason why I was sharp, because they let me work out with them." Those workouts helped Tavarez impress Brewers officials on Saturday, when he threw a side session at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., where the team was in the middle of a four-game series. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said the Brewers intend to use Tavarez out of the bullpen, though he has 108 career starts. Yost views him as a multiple-inning option in the middle of games, a role essentially held by Riske earlier this season. Tavarez doesn't have a preference. "I enjoy my baseball uniform," he said. "It doesn't matter if I'm a long man, a setup man, a closer. As long as we play ball, I don't care what role that I am."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.